By Greg Graves, VP of Sales and Marketing
Did you know that Kodak invented the digital camera in 1975? By 1989, they’d created the first DSLR camera. However, they refused to sell it because they were afraid it would cannibalize their film business. The problem is that Kodak fundamentally misunderstood the value they provided as a company. They saw their value in the product they provided: film. In hindsight, the value they provided wasn’t film at all. It was the ability to record memories easily. They didn’t realize it though, and as a result, their strategy and value weren’t aligned. The money they made off the camera patents kept them afloat for a while, but after the patent expired in 2007, Kodak filed for bankruptcy shortly thereafter in 2012.
“Technical skill alone isn’t a good differentiator anymore. It used to be rare, but it’s not much anymore. You’ve got to find other ways to add value for your clients, but you can’t add value you don’t know you’re creating. If you don’t know it, how could your customers?”
Recently, longtime friend of Revere Mike Lane spoke to our staff on a variety of issues, but the quote above reminded me of when I worked for a large automation manufacturer. We would occasionally lapse into talking about the brands and product names that we offered as if they fully described the portfolio of services we offered. One of our distributors constantly reminded us to talk about our products using language that is well-understood by our customers. If all we talked about were our products and brands, then that’s the only thing customers knew we could do. We ran the risk of blinding ourselves and our customers to the full range of value we were creating.
For years, Revere has described itself as a systems integrator. However, systems integration is only a subset of what we do on a day-to-day basis. You could say that Revere is a systems integrator/specialty engineering firm/technical services provider/specialized construction firm/specialty systems assembler, but that’s quite a mouthful. What do you call a firm that does those things on a relatively large scale? What’s the real value we’re providing with those services? As we’ve wrestled with these questions, I just can’t get that distributor’s wisdom out of my head: “Don’t invent new words to describe things people already know and understand.”
We often do business as a supplier to companies commonly referred to as “EPC firms”. They are firms who have the engineering discipline, management expertise, and implementation capability to engineer, procure, and construct (EPC) entire plants. Their true value offering is peace of mind to their customers, because they take total responsibility for the outcome of the project. This got me thinking: isn’t that what we do for our customers in automation?
I believe that Revere is truly an Automation EPC firm. Yes, do we do system integration, but that’s just a small piece of our offerings. We take responsibility for every aspect of the electrical, instrumentation, and control portions of a project, delivering a full suite of integrated services in a turnkey fashion. That’s our film, what we do. But what’s the value we offer? Our in-house vertical capabilities allow us to complete large projects up to 30% faster, helping our customers get to market with their products. Our controls expertise allows us to deliver insights that reduce downtime and maintenance issues in ways that increase overall client productivity. Our industry experience allows us to keep our customers compliant with even the strictest regulations, preventing compliance and safety issues. Our commitment to accurate estimating allows our customers to trust the prices we give them; no fear of nickel and diming change orders. Ultimately, the value we offer our customers is the peace of mind to say, “I have this problem, but Revere knows how to help me fix it. They’ve got me covered.” That’s our memory recording.
Kodak serves as a cautionary tale of the dangers of misidentifying your true value. Once you’ve identified it, you’ve got to refer to it in ways that customers will understand. For us, that’s as an Automation EPC. What value does your company provide? Can you explain it?