On The Edge: Earn Your "Roadside MBA" @ RSPA Inspire - Vantiv


I was so excited when I heard over the summer that the authors of Roadside MBA were presenting at the RSPA (Retail Solutions Providers Association) INSPIRE Conference, I immediately bought and read their book. Then when I saw recently that registration opened for INSPIRE, I got so fired up that I transcribed my notes from the book.

I legitimately can’t wait to hear authors Michael Mazzeo, Paul Oyer, and Scott Schaefer present at the conference. They “looked under the hood” at a bunch of small businesses and I’m sure have many of best practices to share with POS reseller and ISV executives.

Following are some of my favorite quotes from the book that apply to the retail IT channel:

  1. The answer to every strategic question is “It depends.” The trick is knowing what it depends on. And if the answer to a question isn’t “It depends,” then it’s not a strategic question.
  2. It’s never enough to know that something worked; you need also to understand why it worked.
  3. The key to making a collection of satellite locations run smoothly is an efficient centralized hub that handles all of the support services for every location.
  4. Seize growth opportunities you can monitor remotely.
  5. Monitoring technology and checklists epitomize why the owner is able to add locations.
  6. “You really need to develop your product in one industry, focus on that industry well, own it, and then expand into other industries.”
  7. Once you have identified your target customer, you must tweak your services in order to match the preferences of these customers as closely as possible.
  8. Too many businesses try to be all things to all people, which leads to inefficiencies. Tom knows who isn’t a good customer for the Bank of Montana, and he doesn’t lose sleep over not signing that customer up.
  9. “We are fortunate to be in a pretty specialized market. When you do a good job and it’s something that not too many other people can do, they stick with you.”
  10. It is important to have an option available for customers who are willing to pay more (or willing to pay to avoid the lowest class of service).
  11. It’s important to think through what problem you’re trying to solve with your branding efforts.
  12. “You have to be good to work with — you need to be happy in the 12th hour of a 12-hour day.”
  13. By bundling commoditized hardware with harder-to-replace expertise, Wren reduces the relative value of his customer’s next-best option and makes it easier for Wren to capture value. “It’s less about the products and more about helping them address issues. … We’d rather go after the smaller sale and come in with more technical savvy, allowing us to build significant credibility by referencing our tier-one customers.”
  14. We searched long and hard for hiring solutions, but there’s really no silver bullet.
  15. It’s always good to deter job applications from bad matches; the last thing you want is a bigger haystack when what you need is that one elusive needle.
  16. “We found our best workers are single moms with a couple of kids and a deadbeat ex-husband. If you run a night shift, they won’t work for you. If you do run a night shift, that’s when you get the deadbeat ex-husbands here working.”
  17. While he pays his lead technician by the job, other employees remain hourly, in large part because he’s concerned they will sacrifice too much quality for speed.
  18. It can make sense to tie pay to a team’s output when interaction among workers is productive. A second reason to use group-based pay is “mutual monitoring.”
  19. “When you’re in charge, anything that isn’t specifically somebody else’s job lands on you, and it’s easy to get bogged down.”
  20. When delegating, it’s never enough to think just about who has information that is useful for making good decisions; it’s essential to also think about that decision maker’s incentives to make good choices.
  21. Owners care about long-run value, but employees typically have shorter time horizons. This means that tying employee pay to accounting profits can encourage them to think too much about the short-run effects of their decisions.
  22. “We build a personal relationship because we want the customer to come buy from us for 20 years.”
  23. Owner of an IT outsourcing company: “If you’re competing against company insiders and ‘trunkers,’ you have to look like a solid firm, the go-to firm when you’re finally sick of your IT problems.”
  24. “The difference between focused sales and stalking is a fine line.”
  25. Focus on what the big boys don’t do well.
  26. Successfully competing with the big boys requires a solid understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of scale.
  27. Weak across-division communication is an almost unavoidable side effect of growth; the big boys are just going to be bad at it.
  28. Recognize the advantage that comes from being small and exploit your smooth communication capabilities.
  29. Provide services that don’t require large overhead investments.
  30. There are no one-size-fits-all answers in business strategy. Effective strategy requires that you understand your markets, understand your employees, understand your organization, and then tailor your strategic choices to the particulars.
  31. Even if you have a perfect strategy, are executing effectively, and have established a comfortable competitive advantage, you had better be anticipating what the right strategy will be for tomorrow.
  32. He knows that the strategy he’s developed is just another temporary solution until the next technological sea change.

I highly recommend you take two steps today to improve your business. First, buy a copy of Roadside MBA (here's a link to it on Amazon), and then register for RSPA INSPIRE, being held Jan. 29-Feb. 1 at the Marriott Resort in St. Kitts. I hope to see you there!

For more On the Edge content, please visit the Vantiv Partner Advantage website.

Jim Roddy is a Reseller & ISV Business Advisor for Vantiv’s PaymentsEdge Advisory Services. He has been active in the POS channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as a Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) board member, and one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board. Jim is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences and he is author of the book Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer.

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