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Youth vs Age

Gen A-Z vs Grey Hairs, young companies vs old companies, clever vs ignorant, in tune vs out of touch, and the list goes on.  Youth in all it’s forms must create its own identity.  Many cultures have rites of passage designed to smooth the transition, but business does not.  We strive to define ourselves in contrast to our predecessors.  Calling out our unique value proposition over the failed policies of our elders.  Claiming one can’t know the other out of hand.  Wreckless and needless activity vs orderly and stable progress.  Ironically, even when there is common ground, it’s often the time table of change that becomes the battleground of progress.  It’s not enough to give 3 vague steps in a process, here are some rules to guide you as well.

Rules:

1) Respect yourself

2) Respect the other side

3) Agree or agree to disagree

Sounds to simple?  Yes It is.  Is it possible?  Yes it is.  Here is the rub.  Behavior is the hardest thing to change.  Growing up, we learn to set ourselves apart, first from our parents, and then from others. We further hone this skill through our life experience until we use it as a shield to prevent the very change we inspired. Our set-apart self requires that we protect the distinction.  As we grow older and more set in our distinction, we resist change.

  • Companies are no different from us; they simply have more scale
  • Is that all there is?  No.  It’s about resources and money

There’s more going on here than an endless linear stream of creating, differentiating, then defending your turf.  There is a symbiotic relationship between young and old, new and established.  Just as your parents paid for your development and helped define your direction, companies often pay for research and development for young companies.  Successful companies serve the market and customers in a responsible and sustainable way.  New companies fill the need for rapid development and deployment filling the gaps large companies can no longer address.  It’s a cycle that never ends.  As a new idea takes hold in market, they too grow or are acquired to take the place of the old ideas.  It’s constant churn.  While we like to frame it as them against us, we really should understand this symbiotic relationship as a quest to deliver the best value to market.  The fundamental lesson is a return on investment, or simply become self sustained when you “grow up”.  Do that, and you’re a productive member of society and free to do as you wish.  Mostly.

So why all the strife?  Differentiation by defamation.  We slander the other side in a hope to differentiate ourselves to our audience.  The truth is no one cares to hear slander.  They will often ask pointed questions that provoke responses, but should we do that as a rule?  No.  Your new customers are your older competitions’ customers anyway.  It has to be or you are not disrupting a market.  So why defame them and insult your new customers previous choices?

Let’s be blunt.  The company you currently defame is most likely one that will acquire you at some point.  You should be pointing out the value you bring for customers and how it compliments their needs.  Blasting the products they use and pay for today is most likely counter productive.  Done right, this will help you build respect in the market as a “mature” player, solidify customers who should partner with you, and all the while soften the blow for the company that might acquire you.

Let’s not live in glass houses either.  Mature companies should not disparage new companies for the exact same reasons.  Relationships are the new sell.  Bad mouth the young startup and you’re shutting down the chance for improvement.  Let’s not train ourselves into believing the hype of hate.  If your customers are looking into a new offering down market, there must be a reason.  If you can learn to leverage that knowledge, you can make a more sound buy vs build decision.  Most young companies sell in businesses that don’t move a needle for you, so why focus your anger on customer retention that slams them for looking?

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