Companies belonging to the dinosaur club of Blockbuster and RadioShack at some point stopped asking “why do we exist?”, and as a result they were inducted into this growing club of failing companies who either underinvested or didn’t invest in their future. As a founder and CEO, I am constantly asking myself, our leadership team, and colleagues “why do we exist?” Companies that ask this question usually have a customer-centric focus that adapts to customers’ evolving needs and desires. Sometimes customers know exactly what they want, and sometimes as leaders we have to evolve their thinking and imagine new products and capabilities that will enhance their lives and experiences. Steve Jobs famously said, “Some people say, ‘Give the customers what they want.’ But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, ‘If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!’ People don’t know what they want until you show it to them…” I am not suggesting you shouldn’t listen to your customers. I am saying listen closely with a goal to wow them with your solution.
At the core of the “why do we exist?” question is the following:
- Do we know our customers?
- How are we making their lives better?
- Why should they buy our products?
- Would they recommend us to someone else?
- Are we delighting our customers with awesome service?
- Are we positively impacting the lives of the people we work with?
Here is how we answer these questions at Inpensa.
Do we know our customers?
At Inpensa we focus our solution on Fortune 2000 companies that require an investment governance process to institutionalize how they manage their project investment decision process and how they identify and track ROI. Our customers are typically from the CFO’s office and CIO’s or Risk Officer’s organizations. These functions are responsible for managing effective investment governance processes. A process that spans from idea, to ROI analysis, to approval, to benefits realization. Companies that institutionalize a best practice investment governance capability make better decisions faster, more effectively, and realize a higher ROI.
How are we making their lives better?
Better is always relative and depends on the starting point. We work with a range of companies that are either just getting started or have home-grown solutions with complex processes—and anywhere in between. Our focus is to net out the process to weed out unnecessary steps, identify efficiencies, and move companies from a traditionally offline process to an online, digitized process. We believe if our customers can minimize manual data input and get real-time data at their fingertips, they will be able to make smarter decisions at breakneck speed and therefore become much more competitive. Our customers can sleep better at night knowing the investment governance process engine is established and is running seamlessly.
Why should they buy our products?
There are two ways to answer this question. The first aims to address the customer value question. Our customer value proposition is simple: buy our solution and you will establish an investment governance process that passes your audits, allows for objective and informative decision making, creates a faster throughput process, and increases the ROI of your most strategic investments.
The second is why should they buy our products, that is from us. This is a question that we think about all the time. At Inpensa we have the only purpose-built business case management solution and the only end-to-end investment governance platform on the market. The reason is simple: before starting Inpensa we occupied the same positions as our customers and experienced the same challenges on a daily basis. Out of frustration and lack of any available solution we decided to build a company to solve the investment challenges from a practitioner perspective with a keen focus on the impact to the executive and company overall. So, why buy from us? Because we are first and foremost subject matter experts, and we solve these challenges with a customer-first approach.
Would they recommend our products and solutions to others?
It’s one thing for people to buy and use our solution but another to actually think it’s so awesome that they want to recommend it to others. This takes the customer experience to another level. Some of the best companies on the planet ask this question every day, and when they go beyond asking and make it their focus, they end up with great companies offering great products like Apple.
At Inpensa we are focused on ensuring our customers find our solution intuitive and easy to use, easy to collaborate with team members, have data at their fingertips—like the ability to run reports in seconds that would traditionally take weeks to put together—and ultimately help them be the hero for their team. Happy customers today mean more customers in the future. Guided by this mindset, we have and continue to invest significantly in R&D, customer experience, usability and satisfaction. As a result, a large percent of our new customers come from referrals.
Are we delighting our customers with awesome service?
As a Software-as-a-Service company we take the “service” component very seriously. Service to us is like a chain in which every interaction is a critical link in the service chain. That can be during our presales process, during implementation and training, or post-implementation during support. Even answering a simple support ticket is an opportunity to delight our customer with great service and create a “wow-factor” experience. We accomplish this with our customer-first approach and by making every customer concern a priority. Simply put, we treat you the way we would like to be treated.
Are we positively impacting the lives of the people we work with and those around us?
We can’t wow our customers without providing an environment that gives our employees the ability to operate at their best. We encourage creativity and diversity of thought. We believe everyone can contribute in a unique way, and together we can solve complex problems with simple solutions. We believe everyone in every division of the company is an ambassador, and by fostering a positive environment where people can thrive, we will have the best ambassadors.
In summary, I encourage everyone to ask themselves, “why do we exist?” Why is your company in business? If the only answer you come up with is making money, then I suggest you dig deeper, ask the questions above, and write down your answers. Compare them with others on your team. At the end of the day you won’t make money for long if your business model doesn’t focus on the customer’s needs and how they evolve. If you can’t answer these questions satisfactorily, companies that can will eventually out-compete you. Think big, win big, and do it by putting your customers first.