Software Companies Should Expand Choice, Not Limit It
As the founder and CEO of a restoration industry software company, I have recently had to do some soul searching on what kind of business I want to run and what core values should guide the decisions I make. As our company has grown in size, so has our responsibility to the restoration community at large; as choices we make impact more and more restoration contractors across the industry. This has brought me to the realization that software companies (especially platform technologies like ours) have an obligation to expand choice for their customers rather than limit it.
What do I mean by expanding contractor choice? Here is a simple example: our core product is called DASH, a job management solution designed for restoration contractors. We recently acquired Luxor CRM, the restoration industry’s only CRM built with restoration businesses in mind. As we prepared to announce this acquisition we had a choice— do we cut off the existing integrations between Luxor CRM and other (competing) job management tools in an attempt to force contractors who loved Luxor onto our job management solution, or do we expand choice by offering new integrations and working to maintain existing integrations even with companies with which we compete? While one could argue that limiting choice is more strategic, the team at Next Gear came away with the opposite conclusion. Contractors deserve choice and the software companies that work for them have a responsibility to enable it.
Providing choice is not always easy
In a world of ever-tightening security standards, we have to be careful what software solutions we choose to integrate with. We will have to verify that our integration partners meet the same security standards to which we are held. Simply stated, not everyone will qualify. That said, software solutions that have a meaningful customer base and meet security requirements should be considered for integration so that our customers have options and are not forced to use only our solutions. Contractors have different needs, and sometimes those needs may be better served by others. We believe software companies (ours included) should have to earn your business, not take it by using a market position to force your hand.
Choice is the trend
Looking at the broader software industry, it’s clear we are not alone in this conviction. Google and Apple are great examples, with Google apps being offered on the Apple App store. Allowing your many apps to integrate has now become so commonplace in your personal life it might be hard to understand why business application developers are resistant to this trend. But because we’re not Google and this market isn’t as big as the Apple App Store, there is an opportunity and a temptation to come in and attempt to take the market by force. We believe that strategy to be fundamentally flawed and not sustainable. Platform companies like ours have an obligation to resist the “scorched earth” path and continue to work to earn our client’s business, not force our customer’s hand.
How should software companies in our space act?
Software development takes some time and I wouldn’t expect immediate product launches or universal integrations to everyone in the industry, but if software developers are going to provide choices it will most clearly be seen in their decisions:
- Customer needs should outweigh ambition for competitive edge.
- Security is everyone’s problem and software companies should help each other to be compliant so integrations can be stood up more easily.
- We are all serving a niche market and contractors should have a say in how restoration-specific technology works together.
- Platform companies should be held to a higher standard and should never exploit a captive customer audience by forcing a product onto a contractor just because they’re using another one of their solutions.
We have focused on creating a platform that enables contractors to better manage their businesses. We are not an estimating or pricing tool, an accounting software, or a contents solution, but by integrating with software companies that do these things well, we are able to focus on bringing great products to market AND allowing contractors choice. We have come to the conclusion that this is both good business and the right thing to do.