An era of unprecedented challenge has been thrust upon us. Which means now is the time to shine! The greatest businesses have always been led by those who see opportunity in difficult times. This inspirational discussion with Thomas Douglas shows how that can be you!
Speaker 1: Welcome to the JMARK Business Innovation Technology experience.
Speaker 2: Okay. Welcome back again. We are having a marathon day talking about lots of cool stuff. I’m actually really excited, okay, I’m really excited every time, but I’m really excited about this topic we’re going to talk about is innovation with technology. Right now, over the last month or so, we’ve been talking about what we’re calling the better normal. Everybody’s been talking about the new normal. A few weeks ago when we were discussing the psychological effects of working from home, this idea of coming back to a better normal came about, and so we’ve been talking about that. We are seeing right now, we’ve talked about this a little bit, is behavior changes, and consumers, and then clientele. What does that mean to businesses that are going to come back from this, and how do they need to transform their organizations using technology to help make that transition easier?
Speaker 2: One of the examples that we’ve talked about a few times is curbside pickup. I bought a bunch of stuff from Lowe’s. I go to Lowe’s, I call a number, they bring it out to me. Oh, my gosh. That’s so much easier than walking around and trying to find stuff all over the place. Last Friday, I purchased the movie SCOOB! on Amazon the day it was coming out. As a family, we sat down and watched the SCOOB! movie. I didn’t have to drag my kids to the movie theater, a four-year-old that goes 10 minutes and then wants to watch something else. I didn’t have to deal with any of that. It was beautiful. I loved it. I don’t want to go back to it anymore. I just want to buy them and do a little family thing. Those are just two little samples of the way things are changing, and we have to be ready to pivot. What are you guys seeing?
Tom: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. I think you can take that concept and apply it to any business. You talked about curbside pickup at Lowe’s, but the same is true for restaurants. The same is true for Walmart, and the same is true for groceries. I mean, every place that you’re going nowadays, what does it mean for me to have a simple experience? At the heart of all of that is technology. If you think, what would have happened in terms of the ramifications of this pandemic if it happened seven years ago, eight years ago, 10 years ago? We wouldn’t have been able to continue the same level of productivity that we’ve had today because people couldn’t work remote. The technology wasn’t as capable. You couldn’t have an app that allowed you to go do the curbside pickup because the technology wasn’t there.
Tom: I think what’s happened is this has forced the entire U.S. population to accelerate in the digital transformation journey about three years, maybe five years, forward of what would have happened naturally. I think now that we’re in this world, there’s a lot of businesses that are really evaluating how to be prepared, how to innovate for this, this better normal.
Speaker 4: Do you think, I guess anybody, I was going to ask Tom, but I guess anybody can answer, technology helps smaller companies. It levels the playing field a little bit to give them the ability to innovate and do new things that’s, especially a few years ago, they couldn’t have done, but in this situation to try things out?
Tom: I think when the company has the right attitude, the answer to that is yes, because you have to have certain minimum rights to play, foundational items in place with any kind of an IT structure, in order to take advantage of these new technologies. If you try to innovate on top of chaos, you’re going to add more chaos. The thing that you have to do with IT, is you have to build the building blocks. Does it run consistently? Does it perform how I expect it to? Do I have the right business continuity plans, the right security protocol? Do I have those minimum right to play items in place? If the answer to those things are yes, then that gives you permission to be creative and go out and maybe bring in a new software vendor that you can deploy and develop your own app. A small business nowadays can do that relatively easy, where in years past that wasn’t possible. I think the answer to that is yes, as long as the attitude and the focus of the organization is done well.
Speaker 2: Yeah. I think small and large organizations can all take advantage of technology to innovate. When you think about innovation, innovation is really solving a problem. There is a new problem, and you have to bring together people, ideas, partners, to be able to innovate out of that problem and create a better experience, better profitability, better sales, whatever it might be. When we think about innovation then, and about solving a problem, I guess we have to ask ourselves, and I’m just going here, do we have the right people? Do we have the right partners? Do we have the right technology? If not, how can we bring those people together and get the right people and technology so that we can quickly innovate and solve problems? A lot of people, I think, they’re looking at the problems that are existing now and hoping that they will just go away once everything goes back to normal. It’ll just go away, and we won’t have to worry. It goes back to that uncertainty and not wanting things to change, and the fear of change.
Speaker 4: Yeah. I think that’s what we’re trying to talk about when we talk about the better normal is the people that are looking at the problems now as an opportunity. There are people out there that are doing that. Right now, there’s somebody out there looking and saying, “I see that things have changed. What can I do? My business is going to come out ahead because I’m going to seize this opportunity to innovate and reach the better normal. Everybody’s going to be following me because I’m doing it now.”
Tom: I agree with you. I hope one of the things that we accomplish today in our conversations is helping someone to have that perspective. There’s the fear perspective of, “I don’t know how I’m going to,” and then there’s the, “I’m going to” perspective. With the right partnerships, and the right people, the right attitude, then you can actually accelerate your business as a result of everything that’s going on. One of the big questions that we’re getting asked right now is, “How am I going to take the experience of the office and tie it to the home experience? How am I going to manage productivity? How am I going to tie everybody together? How am I going to check all these boxes?” Well, the answer really is in how we use technology to keep people connected.
Tom: In our organization right now, we’re developing, we’re doing some research and development on a set of relatively inexpensive mobile carts that facilitate video conferencing and collaboration, but are platform agnostic. You’ve got a lot of organizations that want to use Zoom, or WebEx, or you’ve got GoToMeeting, or you’ve got phone system-based environments like RingCentral or 8×8. It’s like everybody has a flavor of the day that they need for video conferencing, so we need to have a generic-based solution to solve that problem that keeps everybody connected. With the right attitude around that, yeah, the answer is, “Yes, by all means. We can tie everybody together, help everybody to be successful and productive.” When the organization, back to your point Dax, when the organization has the attitude of, “I’m going to solve this, and I’m going to become the market leader as a result of innovation,” then everything accelerates, and it becomes a whole lot of fun. It’s one of our favorite problems to solve.
Speaker 2: What are some of the examples that we’ve seen? I’ve seen a ton, and I’m sure you’ve all seen it. What are some of the examples of ways people are innovating right now that is really different from the model that they started out at the beginning of this year?
Tom: Well, I think there’s lots of ways that you can apply it. What I would describe as simple innovations that have been around for a while that people are starting to embrace, so whether it’s video conferencing like we’re doing now, or whether it’s really leveraging digital signing. The DocuSign, the Adobe signs, historically speaking, many attorneys are still in the habits of printing papers, having people come in and sign documents. Banks were doing the same thing. Loan documents, they were still printing them. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had to sign lots of documents. Every single one of them has been done digitally. Before, I would have ended up with a ream of paper on my desk in order to do that.
Tom: I think there are simple things that are going on, and then there’s major things that are going on too, in terms of the curbside pickup, or meeting people in different ways, what I like to describe is meeting your customer where they are, rather than them having to come to you. I think that that’s what innovation is going to require, or what problems are going to exist in the coming years, is how do you make sure that (1) you know who your clients and customers are, and how can you meet them where they are. When you can answer those questions, then that leads you down the path that you need to focus on to innovate.
Speaker 2: That’s true. A lot of people think of innovation as some big shift, or some big pivot, and we have seen that going on. Like you said, sometimes it’s the simple things, embracing technology, embracing video, embracing e-signature, embracing a new tool for collaboration, a new tool for a chat, or for project management, or whatever it is. Oftentimes, just the active innovation is just doing something new and indifferent.
Tom: Yeah. Different than the marketplace.
Speaker 4: A really good example I have, which is something that I think a lot of people would have said is just crazy, is just down the street from me, there’s a new restaurant. They opened up three weeks ago. They had been planning building, and the plan was to open up, I think, at the end of March. That got put off a little bit, but the guy behind it, I see him now, Dan, he lives down the road, and I’ll see him outside when I walked by, or whatever, and we’ll chat a little bit. He said that they just realized this was a bad time, but they had everything there. They had all the plans. Let’s go forward with it. Then he quickly realized they had to add technology to give them the ability, Tom, you said, meet your customer where they are.
Speaker 4: They weren’t planning on doing deliveries. They decided, “Okay, we’ve got to do deliveries. Well, how do we do deliveries? We can be giving our money to Uber Eats, or DoorDash, or whatever, or we can build into our website an ordering capability, and we get the orders, and we take out the deliveries.” They took the technology, figured out the radius of where it was still profitable, where they could get it there in an amount of time, and they added these technologies that they were not planning on because they saw that that’s what it was going to need to launch a restaurant right now, and they’re going for it. It was through the technologies, and through figuring out what they could do to meet their customers and get the food to them when we can’t go to the restaurant.
Speaker 5: Good for them. That’s awesome. I have a fun example that I saw. I’m curious if you guys saw it. I don’t know if it was like a zoo, or a petting zoo, or what, but now that people can’t come to them, you can hire them to have a goat crash your Zoom meeting.
Speaker 5: That’s pretty good.
Tom: Just a fun way of meeting the customer where they are.
Speaker 2: Right. That reminds me, just down the street, there’s a little bakery that opened right before everything hit the fan. They had to quickly transform as well, because during the pandemic, people aren’t buying as many cakes, and cupcakes, and sweets, and cookies, and things like that. They had to quickly change their operations. They’re basically making family meals. The customers, they need food. There’s a lot of stress and anxiety going around, and they quickly changed their entire model. It may go back, I don’t know, but they had to change the entire model, and like you said, meeting the customer where they are to make sure things are profitable and successful.
Tom: Right. I think …
Speaker 2: I think that’s key. Go ahead.
Tom: Yeah. I was just going to say, I think one of the things, what has happened in the last couple of months is the companies have had to, they’ve been forced to consider what is the right model, and what is the right structure for us to facilitate the highest value for our customers. That’s really the purpose of what technology innovation is all about is as you said, Todd, solving the problem. Sometimes it’s not about driving efficiencies or speeding a business up. Sometimes it’s about creating a whole new product line, a whole new solution set, a whole new capability within an organization.
Tom: JMARK, historically speaking, hasn’t really focused a lot on telecommunications, but now the office has extended to the home, so we have to adapt. We have to be able to help our customers make sure that they can work from anywhere, they can do the video calls from anywhere, that we can manage the bandwidth, and the challenges of printing and scanning at home, and doing all of those things. No problem. We’re going to do that. That’s a part of that innovation lifecycle that we all have to go through. Having the right attitude about that as being an exciting opportunity is really the foundation of it all.
Speaker 2: All that is coming back to meeting our customers where they are. If we hold onto the model of everybody works in an office, then we’re not going to be able to be successful. The same thing we’re seeing all over the place. I mean, we’re seeing banks that are beginning to deploy video conferencing from a customer to, I think it’s called video banking, from a customer to the bank level. We’re seeing just a massive number of changes to how people operate because of these behaviors. I think business leaders really need to start asking the questions right now of, “What’s it going to be like in three months, in six months? What are the behaviors that my customers are changing right now that they might actually like? How do we meet them so that we can continue to provide value and a great experience for them?”
Tom: As it relates to directly to IT and not directly to IT, I think there’s two points that we have to bring up as it relates to that. The first is security. If you’re not putting the right security protocols in place today when you try to add these other products or capabilities, or work from home situations, you could end up in a whole bunch of trouble. That is an easy way for the bad guys to get into a network, so first, what are you doing as far as security?
Tom: The second thing in that regard though is what we go back to. People first, technology second. Right now, as an organization, there’s more talent on the market than there has been on the market in a decade. Because of technology, it doesn’t matter where people are in the country. I mean, we’re located in three states as we’re having this conversation. The point is that you can identify some of the best talent in the country now and bring them into your company, adopt them into your culture, if it’s an intentional part of your strategy. Capitalizing on, “Hey, I’ve always needed good people. I’m going to take a risk, and I’m going to hire that sales person. I’m going to hire that customer service person, that innovator in the business,” whatever it may be. Now is the perfect time to really focus on innovating and how you even bring employees into an organization to be a part of your team.
Speaker 2: I think it’s also important, you have to solve these problems now. It can’t be later. With that, you need tools to collaborate, tools to work together, tools to make sure that accountability is maintained, and productivity is maintained, and you need good technology that’ll allow you to move fast, and new tools potentially. If you’re holding back on some of these things, then it’s going to be a lot harder to pivot, and innovate, and create the success that that everyone needs to do, and we need to change.
Tom: Yeah. I think it comes to the right partnerships. I mean, when you really think about it, it’s the brainstorming that drives innovation. It’s coming up with a new idea, a different way of meeting your customer where they are, different way of delivering service or value. When you have the opportunity to brainstorm with great people who think that way around technology then, it may be a partner that actually brings this brilliant idea that changes the way that you operate. It’s getting engaged in organizations and partnerships at those right levels so that you have the opportunity to learn from others, to hear some of the ideas, to hear what’s going on in the marketplace, to hear what they’ve been exposed to and maybe what they can bring to the table.
Speaker 2: Very well. Great conversation on innovation. We could probably talk about innovation for many hours. We’re going to be having Daniel Burris soon over a conversation. He is an expert on disruption and innovation. We’ll be bringing that live to everybody. Until next time, keep innovating. Later.
Speaker 5: Yeah.
Tom: See you.
Speaker 1: Thank you for attending this podcast. We hope it has been informative and help convey that at JMARK, we are people first, and technology second. To learn more and discover additional content relevant to your business, please visit us online at jmark.com, or at LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You may also call us at 844-44-JMARK. Thank you for your time, and we look forward to seeing you again.