Five keys to business success in the digital age

| September 16, 2015

James Chin Moody, CEO of Sendle – the NRMA-backed rival to Australia Post – shares his insights on what it takes for business to succeed in our digital world.

The world is changing rapidly. As a recent report by the World Economic Form articulated, many things that would have been scoffed at only ten years ago, such as driverless cars or implantable mobile phones, are now expected to have occurred within the next decade.

So what can mid-sized companies do to keep up with, and take advantage of, this changing world?

Here are some lessons that we have learnt from our journey in building Sendle and also some questions that all companies might want to ask themselves in this digital world.

Software is everything

In the past, competitive advantage used to come from leveraging effort. Many of the great leaps forward in the 20th century were based on helping us to produce things more efficiently, effectively having one person do what it used to take 10 to do.

But things are changing, and now it is the companies that leverage intellect, not effort, that have the greatest advantage. And what is it that leverages human intellect?  Software.

The rise of software creates many interesting business models, such as AirBnB, the world’s largest hotel chain that doesn’t own any hotel rooms and Uber, the world’s largest taxi company that doesn’t have a fleet.

Indeed, we think that one of Sendle’s greatest advantages is that we are a Software company creating beautiful solutions for logistics, rather than a logistics company trying to get a grip on the world of software.

What would your company look like as a software company? Because in the future there might only be two types of companies: those that know they are software companies and those that don’t know that they are software companies yet.

Unlock idle assets

There are idle assets all around, which can now be unlocked through clever software.  And when you train yourself to look for it, you can see these idle assets everywhere, from underutilised space to waste products that could be used for something else.

Our business, Sendle, unlocks big business delivery infrastructure, and makes it available to small and mid-sized businesses.  By doing this we can now send parcels anywhere in Australia, door-to-door, for cheaper than it costs to line up at the post office.

Is there something in your industry that isn’t being used to its full capacity? How could you create value from this?

Find invisible habits

When you wrap a habit around a monopoly, it becomes invisible.

The Royal Mail in the United Kingdom was founded over 500 years ago and made available to the public in 1635. But since this time, not much has changed. We walk to the postmaster’s office, provide our letters or packages and the post delivers them.

Our business, Sendle, realised that millions of Australians don’t even recognise that there is largely a monopoly provider for parcel delivery. But the moment you point out that there is a better and cheaper solution out there you can get amazing results.

Are there habits in your industry that are so ingrained that no one else can see them?

Friction is everything

What we learnt from our first business was this: removing “friction” from the user experience is everything. What is meant by friction is all of the ‘pain points’ that comes with using a service. For example, currently when you want to send a single parcel there is lots of friction, from lining up at the post office to complex rate cards that are almost impossible to understand.

And one of the most difficult things about removing friction is that it is more about removing choices than it is about improving processes.

In the old days it was good enough to provide an 80% solution to 100% of the market. However, things have changed, and you need to provide perfect 100% solutions even if it means that you can only address 80% of the market.

Take Uber for example. You can only book a taxi if you are ready to go now – you can’t book it for tomorrow. Removing this choice makes booking a taxi that much easier (and just with a single click). But they have made this experience better by reducing their addressable market.

With Sendle we have been single-mindedly focussed on small and mid-sized businesses, who are traditionally not the core domain of parcel logistics. But by building a service for this smaller market we can create a solution that suits these businesses so much better.

How many pain points do your customers feel, and what difficult choices could you make to remove them?

The fast eat the slow

In the digital world, speed is critical. Motivational leadership speaker Jason Jennings put it well: “It’s Not the Big That Eat the Small… It’s the Fast That Eat the Slow”.

In times of change the businesses who can see and seize on opportunities the quickest are the ones that win. But of course speed without direction can just take you to the wrong place, so having a clear and consistent vision of where you want to get to is just as important.

Is your vision clear, and are you adapting faster than your competitors?  

Of course, doing all of this is hard and often involves difficult choices. But for those businesses who understand the power of software, unlock idle assets, disrupt habits and remove friction at a blistering pace, the opportunities are enormous.