Carol Politi | Crain's Washington D.C.

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Carol Politi

Background:  

TRX Systems develops 3D indoor location and mapping technology for places where GPS is not available.

The Mistake:

When I started at TRX, one of the mistakes that I think we made early on was listening too literally to our customers and not really listening enough to our gut and not communicating to our customers the art of what’s possible.

We started delivering an enterprise solution that fit within our current customer operating models. They purchased software and equipment and installed it locally on their own computers. That was something they were used to doing.

Just over the last year, we have delivered an indoor location service using cloud-based map and location assistance data. That allows our customers to leverage the secure cloud architecture and get better reliability. That’s something, as consumers, we’re used to doing all the time now. But the industrial public safety world has moved slower toward that for natural reasons. It takes longer in those markets.

Looking back, I’d move up faster to a cloud-based architecture. We discovered quickly after launch that the benefits enabled us to delight our customers. And the mistake there is listening too literally to what the customers said they needed, given their view on what was possible, and not communicating more effectively what we thought we could achieve.

Deploy with early adopters first, who are ready for that change, and then expand over time. 

The Lesson:

You need to trust your gut. We knew the art of the possible and we needed to work to communicate it so that customers could see the advantages. Any user of a software service is going to be focused on what’s possible in their current operating environment. And while consumers have long been purchasing cloud-based software, our public safety industrial customers were not used to it.

If I could go back, I’d probably do things a year faster. ... The lesson is, if we stay one step ahead and communicate to our customers what’s possible given what is a big operating change, we can deploy with early adopters first, who are ready for that change, and then expand over time. And that’s really what we’ve seen happen. We can also add features over time that meet the needs of more and more of those customers. We don’t have to meet them all today.

If you focus on the early adopter customer who’s ready to make that leap, then over time you can add capabilities and configurations that meet the rest of the market space.

Follow TRX Systems on Twitter at @TRX_Systems

Photo courtesy of Carol Politi