Early adopters of business-to-business e-commerce struggle with being of two minds: While deciding what business they're in today, they also need to keep a finger on tomorrow's pulse. Will familiar business models look the same two years from now? Or will they even be viable?
Here are ten observations to becoming the leader in your industry:
1. Begin with the end in mind.
Start by answering some basic questions: Whom are you trying to serve? What are you trying to achieve? Once you've done that, people will see that, despite everyday distractions, they need to think about the greater good.
2. Think win-win-win.
Get executives talking to information technology (IT) and IT talking to customers. Five years ago, it was us and them, pointing fingers. Now it's a partnership. It changed because we chose to focus differently; we didn't see an application, we saw our application. And when we got it right, it was everyone who got it right.
3. Avoid the bleeding edge.
Customers don't want to know what you're going to build two or three years from now; they want to know what you're giving them today. You have to take an IT-on-Prozac approach to technology - no real lows but no real highs, either - especially for mission-critical applications.
4. Hire people who can deliver.
We have never gone over budget or delivered late on a project. We would be fired if we did. We get to set our own deadlines, so we have the responsibility to meet them. At Global Business Café, we want to give our customers state-of-the-art information, but we don't want to increase our own costs by doing so.
5. Connect the dots.
When you put together three different groups of people with different backgrounds and ask them to talk about abstract things, they're going to speak different languages, often without even realizing it. We never go into a room with a blank screen. We always come in with tangible ideas, right from the start.
6. Be unwilling to fail.
If customers have an issue about changes you feel you need to make, ask people to brainstorm about ways to make the customer's transition a good one. We are determined to do whatever it takes to help customers because we have so much faith in what we build. We fight to overcome whatever obstacles exist.
7. Customize for the masses.
Thinking like a mass-marketer won't get you where you need to go in today's collaborative world. We do a lot of testing at Global Business Café and then we ask for a lot of feedback. Customers like talking about doing business on a day-to-day basis, how they're paying their bills, how they're interfacing with their own customer base.
8. Show them the money.
We are transparent about costs to show customers details around each transaction - not because they demand it but because we're proud of our business proposition. Customers pay for us through their cost savings. It's a win-win situation, and we want them to know it.
9. Address security concerns.
No matter what your product is, customers won't use it if they don't feel safe. We are certified by the ICSA - the Internet Computer Security Association. We pay them every month to try to hack our site.
10. Fail fast.
Make business decisions unemotionally. And don't keep going down the wrong path just to save face. Cut your losses, and cut them fast. Make decisions about where you can fail and where you can't. When we can't afford to fail, we pull together and find the areas where we are vulnerable. So instead of putting our fire hats on with customers later, we take the time to make the right decisions now.