On Saying Yes

October 6, 2014 Ian Sweeney


“Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black,” Henry Ford once wrote.

It wasn’t a matter of Ford’s taste. Rather, he had a good reason: black paint dried faster than other colors, and speed was important to his assembly line. In order to make the Model T one of the first widespread and affordable automobiles, Ford needed to make his assembly line as efficient as possible. So Ford mandated black on the Model T.

While Ford spoke these words decades ago, he speaks to a real dilemma that exists in business today. In order to make a profit, businesses often have to mass-produce a product for numerous customers. But in order to please a consumer, they also have to tailor that product to meet the needs and desires of an individual buyer.

Here at Taulia, we sell to some of the biggest businesses in the world—Fortune 500s and Global 2000s. These companies, many of which have been around for decades, have long-established and successful ways of doing things. They have their own unique and important demands of any product they purchase, and that includes our Taulia solution. Customers ask us to modify everything from technical features to the color scheme of the portal to certain word phrasing.

What’s our attitude toward these requests? We really, really like to say yes! But the reality is that the uniqueness of these requests can sometimes make it hard to say yes.

In our early days a main reason why we are able to cater to these large corporations needs is because we were a small, nimble startup. With an ever-growing list of customers Hallmark, Halliburton, and John Deere, and a more sophisticated product, we have traded some of that flexibility for stability.

However, at Taulia, we can still have it both ways. In Ford terms, we believe we can offer any color of Model T while still being efficient. As VP of Product, I’ve tried to emphasize the importance of an intuitive design that works efficiently for a large number of customers, while remaining creative to address individual requests from customers. Without sharing all our secrets, our Product Team continues to be successful in that endeavor by creating innovative technology solutions that allow us to continue the efficiency of scale yet personalize the platform for our customers. If our companies have specific requirements, we’re happy to cater to them.

Here’s my parting guidance for enterprise focused solution providers like ourselves. When you get requests from customers, ask yourself: Can we make it happen quickly? Will it enhance our standing with our customer? Don’t ask yourself if it is too costly—you should have solved that already! Then tell your customer they can have the Model T in any color they want.

About the Author

VP Product at Taulia

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