Deliver your clients by car, not horse riding anymore | Articles

10 years ago I joined Google. Lucky me. It was on May 2007. The term “cloud” wasn’t such a hype except internally at Google and a handful of big tech companies. Now, in early 2017, the term “cloud” reached its popularity peak in Google Trends.

The iPhone wasn’t there yet neither. Blackberry was the phone of the future. In the meantime, on July 27th 2016, Apple celebrated its billionth iPhone sold. Blackberry, two months later announced that it planned to stop making its own phones.

Today, I am celebrating my 8 years at Semetis. The venture I co-founded with a Google colleague and sold in 2015 to Omnicom Media Group. Back then, there were only the 2 of us and now Semetis counts 35 employees. We are fully relying on Google G Suite (Email, Calendar, Docs and Sheets, Drive, …). We have never worked with any IT suppliers. We scaled up, managing everything ourselves at an affordable price for an SME. Everything is running smoothly on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android. Everyone can access all their documents, emails, calendar wherever they are whenever they want. Seamlessly.

Let’s now add up the magic of the software to this connectivity and these little pieces of hardware that are the smartphones and laptops. Suddenly, you’ve got your bank online, you manage your expenses, your payroll, your invoices, you order your office supplies, and so on, from a web browser. The way you do business today has profoundly evolved. Software is eating the world (Marc Andreessen).

What’s my point? Competition.We tend to continuously look at the “what’s next?” while most of us are still lagging behind trying to catch up with the previous big trend. As stated William Gibson, “the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed”. On this topic Google was ahead. Evolution is slow. Opportunity is big. Inertia is even bigger. I believe we hear a lot about startups. I don’t not believe most of them are reinventing their industry. They are just upgrading the existing ones.

Semetis used to be a very small player in an industry dominated by big international holding companies. Though, we moved very fast and took within a 4 years period a market leader position in our segment in Belgium. Being lean was definitely a competitive advantage and next to luck and hard and smart work an important factor of our success.

Digital won’t save our economy. Digital just asks the right question. How should my business evolve to better serve my clients? Meeting with many entrepreneurs in my role of coach at Solvay Entrepreneurs, allows me to see how many opportunities lie ahead for many SME’s by upgrading their approach to IT.

Do not pay too much attention, when it comes to Digital transformation, on disruption and internet hypes. The greatest focus one SME leader should be on his own current business and how already available technology, from communication channels, to invoicing processes, to customer relationship management, can improve your products and services, and, in fine, the customer’s experience.

This challenge is huge because facing the immense inertia of the day to day and existing company’s culture. Digital transformation is not about IT, stricto sensu, Digital transformation is about culture. Any leader and entrepreneur knows how hard it is to build, maintain and grow a positive culture is. This is such culture that will allow the company, this group of individuals, together, to make the difference by embracing the willingness to evolve and, in the end of the day, make the customer’s experience better.

Chances are high that, the day after, you’ll go back to work delivering your clients on your promise not horse riding anymore but driving a car for their greatest delight...

publication author nicolas debray
Nicolas Debray

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