“Are you using your phone to generate a hotspot?” I asked the woman at the table across from me.
“No. I just remembered that I have Optimum at home and they have hotspots all over the place,” she answered.
“Oh, yeah,” I said. “I always see that network come up when I’m looking for a WiFi connection. What do they charge you to access the remote hotspots?” I asked.
“Nothing extra,” she said. “If you have them at home for phone, Internet and TV, it’s free.”
We had both been sitting in a Starbucks that day working away when the store’s free WiFi went down. I thought I was slick by using my phone to create a hotspot. But while this is a passable solution, it’s not perfect. Whenever you get a phone call, your computer gets kicked off the Internet, and the phone’s battery gets drained pretty quickly. To be able to get online without going through the phone is ideal, and my neighbor across the table was doing just that — for free.
“I think we should switch to Optimum,” I said to my wife. “They have hotspots all over the place and you know I work remotely a lot.”
“I’m sure Verizon has a similar offering,” she said. “They’re a huge company.”
“You’re right,” I said.
But after we both did some investigating, we found that Verizon did not have anything remotely similar. I was shocked until I realized that Verizon had been making money selling WiFi access through their air card program. In fact, I had been one of the people paying them (to the tune of $90 per month for three) until Apple made it possible to generate hotspots with the iPhone. As we know from the writings of Clayton Christensen, it is very difficult to begin giving away that which had been bringing in revenue, even if your future viability depends on it.
So if we look at the progression of events, Verizon has not done very well. First, they lost my business as an air card customer because of Apple. And now, they are losing my home business (phone, Internet and TV) because Optimum puts them to shame with its area hotspot coverage (not to mention my bill will be lower than it is now for at least three years).
Verizon seems to have missed skating where the puck is going, which is not hard to do when you’re a massive company and the space in which you are playing is changing so fast. But if it keeps failing to offer the best and least expensive mousetrap, eventually those failings will become existential threats.
I was speaking to someone a few days ago about how difficult it is for legacy print publications to truly move online in a successful way because they cannot make a break with the past. I thought that no matter how innovative you were with your horse and buggy in 1920, the future was not to be yours.
So how do you make sure the future is yours? How do you ensure that you are earning the “C” in your title? It is by having a vision of the future, a strategic, long-term vision in which you focus your efforts on being able to do the things that will matter — that will generate revenue — five years from now. And the number one thing that will prevent you from getting into this mindset, from having the flashes of brilliance that allow for the creation of a meaningful roadmap, is being mired in the day-to-day, operational aspects of your job, for it is difficult to consider where the trains should be going if your life is consumed by getting them to where they are currently directed.
Lift your head, look around and think. Do your analysis, study the weather patterns and make an educated guess as to where your world is moving. Then set true north, communicate your vision, and rally the troops. Only then will you be doing your organization the service for which it is paying you. And, above all, remember this most important of caveats, one I keep writing about — you cannot make money on what others are giving away.