As the conference season draws near, I have found myself in several conversations about how we intend to present ourselves to our peers and potential customers this year. It is an interesting exercise because when it comes to the actual work we do, well, let’s just say that we don’t like to turn anything down! However, “We do it all” is not a very good business strategy and from a marketing stand point it is useless. So the question becomes, should we promote what we want to do, what we did the most last year, or what was most profitable? These are not the type of questions that resolve themselves quickly. They tend to simmer on a back burner while I continue with the day to day matters of the business.
Nomenclature can be everything. Here’s a word cloud generated by Sam’s last five blog posts from wordle.com. What jumps out?
With all of this swirling around in my head I came across a blog post by Tom Kurke, COO at Geomagic. Mr. Kurke mentions a lot of ideas that have been bouncing around the 3D imaging industry for a few years. Essentially the decreasing cost of entry into the market and the ever expanded uses of 3D models, most specifically through 3D printing. This is a simplification of course, and the post is a worthy of a read if you haven’t done so already. I don’t know if I agree with the immediacy of the democratizing of 3D imaging that Mr. Kurke suggests but I am certain it will happen.
I went through a very similar developmental curve with GPS. In the early 1990s, I worked with my Father doing nothing but GPS positioning. I was a bit worried about how sporadic the work was compared to traditional surveying, until I saw the financial reports. A favorite phrase of my Father’s during this period was, “I’d rather be Neiman Marcus than Wal-Mart.” It did not take long before we had a lot more competition using gear that was less expensive and more user friendly. Within a decade, GPS services were a commodity and we were in a Wal-Mart type pricing system. We still use GPS everyday but we stopped promoting that fact as soon as it stopped being a differentiator. Soon afterwards, we got into laser scanning.
So, are we there again? I’ve already dropped “laser scanning” for “3D imaging” in anticipation of other technologies that we are testing and the consolidation of various industries. I am excited about the new opportunities and miraculous tools that will inevitably come from having more people in our industry. I do not look forward to the commodity pricing that is beginning to creep into some industries like Plant/Process scanning. I don’t want anyone to pay more than they have to, but there is an economy of scale that large engineering firms have over specialist like myself that severely affects my competitiveness on occasion. However, as Mr. Kurke notes, our opportunities for problem solving and education increase as well.
I used to give Tom Greaves (SPAR founder and Executive Director of Cyark) a hard time when we would see each other. I always told him that I went into the wrong business; I should have tried for his job. After all, keeping up with the changes in our industry is itself a full-time job; and he’s the only guy I know that always had a better year than the one before!