March 30, 2018

Learning Curve

Learning Curve

If you have children or grandchildren, you know how successful Apple has been in getting its iPads and Mac laptops into the classroom. Apple’s success never sat well with arch-rivals Google and Microsoft – and they went into overdrive to displace their powerful competitor in the giant educational market. That market is expected to hit $252 billion by 2020, according to FutureSource Consulting.

Now it looks like their efforts have been successful. As The Verge reported, Google is now in first place in U.S. classrooms, with its Chromebooks making up 60% of shipments in the U.S. Microsoft is also ahead of Apple. To regain lost ground, Apple just unveiled a new, less expensive, 9.7-inch iPad, compatible with the Apple pencil.

The tech industry changes more quickly than most, but competition is heating up in every field, as technology ushers in massive change. Apple’s situation is a good reminder of how no company can take success for granted in today’s marketplace. We all need to keep innovating. Today’s hot company can find itself trying to pull a rabbit out of a hat tomorrow. Even if your company is not as well-known as Apple (and not many are), there probably are competitors out there who’d gladly cut into your territory if they could. As my friend Jay Nisberg likes to say, “the champ-to-chump cycle is very fast.”

So how do you prevent them from doing that? There’s no secret formula. If there were, Apple wouldn’t be scrambling now.

However, it is possible to give your company some breathing room by putting the right people and resources in place to stay on top of what is going on in the market and predict what may come down the pike this year, next year, or five years from now.

At Marcum, we invest heavily in attracting the right talent because it not only gives us an edge on this front but brings that competitive advantage to our customers, too. Our goal is to grow with or ahead of our clients, see around corners to their future needs, and provide the expertise and services that will help them evolve – even before they may realize they need this help. This mindset shapes our approach to areas as varied as leadership development, strategic planning, marketing, community service, and IT.

We also make sure we have the right resources in place to guide our team and our clients. For instance, given the size of our construction practice, it is essential to have information on market conditions. As a result, we have made a substantial investment in research such as the quarterly Marcum Commercial Construction Index and the annual Marcum JOLTS Analysis on construction job trends.

Beyond that, here at Marcum we’ve embraced innovation by creating new products and services of our own. Recently, we introduced a new robotic process automation service, which is led by our partner Peter Scavuzzo. It relies on “bot” technology to enable our clients to automate repetitive manual processes and streamline many data-driven functions. We’re developing and using bots for some of the work we do ourselves, as well, and recently received our first assignment to create a bot for a client. It’s part of the future, and we’re embracing it.

No matter how successful Apple is with its new iPad, its battles against Microsoft and Google are far from over. Competition is inescapable if you’re in a market worth fighting for. Fortunately, if you’re well prepared, you have a good shot at staying ahead of your rivals – and may even have some fun outsmarting them along the way.

P.S. Competition can come from the most unlikely places. People laughed at self-taught rocket-maker “Mad Mike” Hughes, whom I poked a little fun at in this column in January. He aimed to prove the Earth is flat by launching himself into the air in a homemade spaceship. On March 24, he finally pulled it off, firing his $20,000 DIY spacecraft 1,875 feet into the air. Mission accomplished! Hughes was injured but he’s already planning his next flight – and thinking about running for governor of California.

Who’s to say an idea is crazy? No one believed computers would someday take over our lives but Steve Jobs was on a mission, too.

P.P.S. Today is Good Friday, tonight starts Passover, and Sunday is Easter. These are individually and collectively some of the holiest days of the Christian and Hebrew calendars. For those of you celebrating some (or all, as we do in our home), we wish you happiness and peace during your celebrations.