Inevitable, but when?

I am currently on holiday and this is one of the few occasions each year when I get extended, uninterrupted time to read and think.  One of the books I brought with me is Behind the Cloud, by Marc Benioff.  Marc is the founder and CEO of  My company uses their product and I recently met Marc after their London conference. has developed into an exceptionally successful and very large company.  My business is at the other end of the spectrum.  However what we have in common is that both of us have founded enterprises at the forefront of a market about to change.  Marc’s book explains what led him to form his company and in describing how he overcame obstacles and went from startup to market leader provides a wealth of useful guidance for others in a similar position.  It is both helpful and inspirational.

The relevance to my company is with our offering. We operate in a sector where fundamental change is inevitable.  The current ‘business model’ is broken.  Outplacement provision is dominated by a handful of organisations and whilst they do their best, they rarely provide a good service to their customers.  Their challenge is that they employ consultants to help people through their job search process and with budgets now typically in the low hundreds of pounds per person they plain cannot afford to offer a decent service.  The employer that is paying the bill feels less guilty about making redundancies however both the service provider and the job-seeker know that the offering is of limited value.

The only viable model is self-service using online technology.  All the help that the job-seeker requires can be provided online (from job search training to activity management to task automation to reporting, etc.) and since technology is cheap the customer can consume as much as s/he wants whenever s/he wants.  It is totally logical.  The only challenge is that many of the employers who purchase this type of service don’t yet know about or recognise the deficiencies of what they currently purchase for their staff and why change is both necessary and inevitable.

Just as built what they knew the market would need and helped educate others to recognise why their model was superior so must we do the same.  Fortunately our business is now profitable which means we don’t have the pressures of a cash-burning startup, however the role of a pioneering evangelist is a challenging one.  It is great to read about others who have successfully made this journey.