Mark Johnson | Crain's Seattle

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Mark Johnson

Background:  

Based in Seattle, eventcore provides highly customized technical solutions and professional services for event registration and platform tools. The company recently completed a $4.1 million growth capital financing initiative led by East Seattle partners, which will be used to expand eventcore’s sales and marketing efforts on a national level.

The Mistake:

I started one of my first consultancies back in 1997, which implemented software for hospitals that was developed by other companies. Around this time, we were fast approaching what was perceived to be this monumental date of Jan. 1, 2000 –  or Y2K. As a result, a lot of the budgets for the work we provided were getting steered away from us and put toward this issue of preparing for Y2K.

While my business was still strong, I let myself get distracted by this whole dot.com boom that was happening. I didn’t want to miss out on something that I thought would help make my company bigger, better, more successful, and have a huge exit at the end. So we ended up trying to sell dot.com-related services – like building websites for customers who wanted a storefront, for example.

Well, Y2K happened, it was a non-event, and the budget for our work immediately came back. Had I just kept to the task and focused on our core competency, I would have been prepared to start again and continue on the growth trajectory I originally had my company on.

But I hadn’t kept to the task, and we weren’t ready to get back into the swing of things because we had people working on these other projects that we weren’t even that good at. As a result, the company started to fade and I ultimately had to sunset it.

In tech, trends come and go.

The Lesson:

In tech, trends come and go. I’ve discovered that, when people rush to follow the latest trend, something gets lost and a vacuum is created – a vacuum that can be filled by organizations that stick to their strengths.

So, every time a trend comes around, rather than completely change what you do to adapt to it, you need to think hard about what value you could derive from that trend, and then improve your product and your company’s direction accordingly.

I was faced with that choice again, later. This time, it was with eventcore. At eventcore, we develop custom, highly integrated data collection websites around live events. Not too long ago, the trend was to move away from these custom-developed solutions because they were considered expensive and took longer to implement.

As a result, people were moving more toward these software as a service, or SaaS, models. They could just subscribe or rent the software, do the configuration on their own, and then use that solution to do what eventcore does.

At that point, I thought it would be good for eventcore to strongly consider following that trend and develop an SaaS-type solution; otherwise, I thought, the company might become obsolete. But then I paused and thought back to what I had learned earlier on. I did some research and realized that this trend would actually be the thing that would ultimately launch eventcore, as is, into a high level of success. I knew that eventcore would be one of the few players that would be able to provide this higher level of service.

Sure enough, customers eventually found that they had to sacrifice a lot of features, flexibility and integration with the SaaS route, and that the total cost of ownership was far greater than expected. So they graduated from these solutions back to what eventcore does.  

eventcore is on Twitter at: @eventcore

Photo courtesy of eventcore

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