"Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.", said Steve Jobs.
Mark Parker, the incoming Nike CEO, had asked Steve Jobs for advice, and that was what he received. Simple. Direct. Useful advice we all need to hear from time to time.
That quote made me laugh. I couldn't help but think about some of the crappy stuff we've created over 32 years. Not all of it was born crappy, but some of it didn't age gracefully.
And because of this we've learned to let go. I remember how we held onto services, products, and passion projects far longer than we should have. That list could be a true confessions post in itself.
And yes, some of them were just plain crappy from the beginning, but we were determined to hang on anyway.
This developer was never going to take off even with a high-powered propeller hat.
Why Do We Keep Doing Things We Should Stop Doing?
If you’re like a lot of us, you feel you have to keep doing what you’ve always done because that’s how the world knows you. Won’t your customers be confused if you introduce a little change into your offerings? (More likely, they’ll appreciate your foresight and fresh thinking.)
And then there’s this deeper, more disturbing, thought we often can’t put into words.
Stopping what you've done for a long time can feel like failure.
In fact, the opposite is true. Ending one thing frees you to move on to new opportunities, ones that would escape unnoticed if you were still pounding away at the same tired thing.
Knowing when to stop takes insight and courage. You won’t be judged as a failure. Instead, you will be admired as a wise, innovative thinker who isn’t afraid to change.
We Thought We Were Just a Software Development Company
When Quest was born in 1991, we were developing software for insurance companies and agencies. It was easy to answer the “what does Quest do” question. But the reality is that -- even then -- we weren’t simply a bunch of enthusiastic software developers.
It took this insightful comment from Jim Davis, our 25-year-long client, to set us straight – “The value that Quest brings to Cotton States is far greater than the software they develop.”
We didn’t answer the “what does Quest do” question correctly at all.
This Is What We've Always Been
And every day -- even 30 years later -- that short sentence serves as this valuable reminder -- what you do and how you do it aren't who you are.
Do we still love to build software and apps? Absolutely. Is it the best way for us to help companies put technology to work for them? No. The software landscape has changed dramatically since 1991. What made sound business technology sense then doesn’t apply today.
So over time we’ve given ourselves permission to move away from building complex software from the ground up. Now we quickly create practical solutions that make existing technology even better.
That decision doesn’t feel like quitting or a failure because we haven’t built the latest unicorn app.
Jim Davis told me so many years ago, “None of the vendors we work with care about integration. They just want to sell their products. You understand integration.”
Integration means connecting all of the random technology pieces into an effective, cohesive foundation that supports a company's business strategy. Jim was right. This is how we can best serve our clients now.
Remeber and laugh. Then let the old stuff go.
One Final Thought
It’s okay to change, to stop doing what you’ve always done. Look for the crappy stuff and let it go. Every product or service has a finite lifespan. They’re not like fine wines that improve with age.
But your expertise does.