At Bomgar Corporation, it took us about three years from the start of the company to understand the true power of focus. After launching the company in the summer of 2003 with some new and innovative screen sharing technology designed for technical support, we quickly fell into the trap that most companies do: diversifying too soon. About 18 months after launching our initial product, we introduced another product for consumer remote access (AccessDesk) and another for online presentations (PresentationDesk). We should have known better, but everything you read shouts “Diversify!” After lackluster results, massive distraction caused by the new products, and a good dose of reality delivered by Al Ries’s award-winning book Focus, we finally killed the two new products and put everything we had into building the best enterprise-class remote support technology on the planet. Now, more than seven years since the launch of our core product, that vision is coming true. It wouldn’t have happened without some serious attention to FOCUS.
The Results of Focus: Bomgar experienced great results from the point it began focusing.
The lesson that Bomgar learned back in 2006 is now challenging a much bigger software company: Microsoft. A recent Forbes article outlined just how bad things are over there:
“Wall Street's response [to recent positive earnings/revenue growth]? A shrug. The stock didn't budge. At $26 it trades where it did in 1998. Paint vendor Sherwin-Williams has a better price-to-forward-earnings multiple.” The article went on to say that it “seems to make little sense for the owner of Windows to keep all of the advertising-supported units, including search service Bing, the MSN portal and the advertising firm Microsoft acquired for $6 billion in 2007, Aquantive. This part of the company--let's call it Web Ventures--would not be viable on its own without a dowry; it lost $2.4 billion on $2.2 billion in sales this past year. (Windows and Office between them enjoyed $24.8 billion in pretax profit.)”
During Microsoft’s earning’s call this week, Steve Ballmer responded to frustrated stockholders by saying that splitting the company along its divisions “means creating a harder time competing for all relevant parties,” and that a breakup would create “economic dis-synergies,” according to eWeek. So Microsoft still has to deal with their underlying issue: a lack of focus.
Microsoft’s current strategy appears to be one of “chasing Google and Apple around” vs. “leading and dominating your own areas of strength.” A focused strategy results in profitable new endeavors, while a “chasing everyone else around” strategy results in money-losing rabbit trails. Since Bomgar learned that lesson, we have remained focused on developing the best remote support technology for businesses. As a result, we’ve built strong bonds with our customers, instead of diluting our relationships by trying to serve too many masters. By keeping our eye on what those customers need from their remote support technology--security, reliability, flexibility--we’ve quickly dominated the enterprise remote support market. There are a ton of things that Bomgar can and will continue to learn from Microsoft, but there is at least one thing that we think Microsoft may be able to learn from Bomgar: FOCUS.
I’d love to hear your opinions about Focus. Comments welcome!