Are You the Perfect Customer?

Yesterday I did the annual B-assessment to keep track of the impacts that my management-system-in-formation potentially has. It is still a theoretical exercise to measure impacts, in the pre-launch phase, but I think it is a useful tool for strategic thinking.

One of the questions of the assessment is whether my organization has a written mission statement. Well, it did not. Funny enough, I am helping an organization as an consultant to formulate their mission statement and I did not even write down the mission of my own endeavor! So that’s why I did it now. It helped raise my score in the test a bit I guess, but that is not the most important.

Not that is was easy though, to put into a few words what is the thing you are doing. But here it goes;

Mission statement Backbone Management System

We enable small and medium sized organizations with software to continuously improve quality, environmental and social impacts.

For sure it needs polishing, but the first step is to write it down. Who is reading this anyway? What matters more is that is helps to be more focused on what really matters.

Meeting with the expertsShould it explain that it is an integrated management system? I think not, because the term integration is a hollow one. It does not tell what it includes. No finance, no accounting, no CRM. Risk based thinking may be lacking still in the mission. It is more than just a document management system. It includes communication. It hits the core of what ICT should be about. Internet Communication Technology. I use the internet, to host organizations intranet.

Should it underline the aspects of sustainability or compliance with management system standards? Those are more like consequences from using the system. Very welcome side effects. It may help with Corporate Social Responsibility reporting, and passing an system audit should be not that hard, but those are not the main objectives. It is efficiency and creating positive impacts that matters.

Even if an organization is non-profit, it does not mean they should to generate losses. That brings me to the next question. Who will be the perfect customer? Small-, or medium sized organizations? What kind of organizations? Which industries? How about geographic spread?

Let me take you some steps back. When I started looking for new ways to make a living, about 3 years ago. I knew I did not want to continue with just work or consultancies, exchanging time for money. I did have a taste of online income from my web developments, but I wanted to do something that combines the things I am good at, with causes that truly matter to me. My informative websites about personal finance, did not match a true passion. It was more a coincidence that those took off. In the angling business, what I am very passionate about. I saw little opportunities to make a good living. That is why I started thinking. I created a mind map and saw how my professional experience as an environmental engineer, combined with expertise as web developer and a strong interest in business could lead to Online Environmental Business Software.

Size matters

I approached several QHSE-managers to understand more about the issues they face in their daily work and the requirements and features for the software are getting every day more clear. But there are some things to solve. The QHSE-manager is not the sole decision maker on what enterprise software to buy into. Actually, my software may make such an manager no longer needed. Oops! I’m not making friends now.

Of course the role of the QHSE-manager is important in many larger organization, but it the only work they do is keeping documents up to date you may reconsider this role. Also, the involvement of top-management is crucial for structural improvements. For smaller companies it may be better first to develop a continual improvement system with the existing staff, before to contract someone extra to do so.

So what would be the minimum size of an organization to qualify as a potential customer? I’d say three persons. Most important is the need for internal communication about work processes. The definition of small and medium size businesses (yes, let’s talk business only, NGOs can come later, perhaps even for free, but first I need paying clients.) differs per country. It ranges from 1-15 persons as the lower border for small business. Medium size organizations starting around 50 and up to 500 employees.

I do not want to serve large organizations or enterprise. They have in house developers for their management systems, or use the services of established software firms.

I’d say the upper limit for my target group is 100 employees. Most importantly, at first I want to focus on single site businesses. Multiple locations for one organization is a feature that will be supported later on. I want to grow together with my clients.

magement_system

Specifics

We have a for-profit business with 3-100 employees that operates from one physical location. There is a need for internal communication about work processes. The organization holds at least one ISO certification for their management system. ISO 9001 or ISO 14001, or both. However, their system is not really a system. It is just a static document. They have to understand the benefits of converting their management system into a dynamic system. I truly do not understand, how it is possible that a static quality manual or handbook ever qualified as a management system. In a few years people will go like: “Wow, did that really happen?”.

The next selection criterium may be that the organization does not have a QHSE-manager on its payrol yet. The system will be easy to work with and guide the users trough the relevant sections to get it up and running. All staff should be involved.

Narrowing it down to Industries

organizationTo determine what industries will benefit most from my system is a hard one, because it is a generic system. At the other side, world domination is not a very realistic goal for the first year after launch, so starting in one niche may be a good thing. Very shortly I will deposit my visionary statement with specifics on the role out and growth strategy, but first I should determine were to start.

It sometimes is more easy to describe what would not be the best match. I think primary production is a sector to skip for now. Manufacturing (that’s were the ISO 9001’s are) is an option, but the majority or a large part of employees should work with a computer.

Civil- or environmental engineering would be a better match. Also because of my affinity with this sectors. An important fraction of the work should be done at office, but there has to be some ‘dirty’ field work or operational branch were interaction with environment or society play a role. A business were the work is handled on a project basis, according to a clear process would qualify I guess.

Logistics could be option. I looked into recycling, could be a match as well. A list is developing here;

  • Publishers
  • Waste(water) collection or treatment
  • Construction
  • Transport
  • Hospitality
  • ICT
  • Consultancy or Research with Fieldwork involved

The decision to leave the manufacturing industry out (for now) may be the most stupid one I made for some time. Anyway, later it is always possible to come back to that. I feel like passing manufacturing for now, because of the potential motivations businesses adopt standards. Compliance is not a good reason. It is not an objective, but an outcome, a result of a focus on sustainability. I may be biased, but I sense that with manufacturing there is a larger change to find compliance thinking with top management.

Motivations to adopt standards

  • Stakeholders Expectations
  • Legislation
  • Supply Chain Driven
  • Intrinsic

When a business is adopting a standard, because the law enforces to do so, protesting clients expect it, or it is a requirement for market access, we are talking about compliance. In case a business really cares about their impact, it is intrinsic driven sustainability management. I want to work with those kind of awesome companies.

Geographic Targeting

Do you mind that I choose my customers? I am making it myself even more comfortable. I will put my efforts into a specific timezone. I read one other tech company that also is based in Costa Rica refers to near-shoring in stead of off-shoring in the context of doing work for USA customers. It makes sense. Communication in English is possible all over the world, but I want to be able to speak by telephone if necessary. I know you like that. You may be my perfect customer. Let’s talk.

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