Do you sell hot dogs?

I was talking to a business owner once, and he just couldn’t get it through his mind why his company needed a mobile app.  They are a successful technology company, in an infrastructure field where business is booming. Highly regulated and data-driven, they had literally hundreds of paper-based processes that were slowing down their work, costing time and money.

“A mobile app isn’t what we do, and isn’t how we’ve always done things” he said.  “It just isn’t who we are.”

Now, I love nothing more than a bad analogy…but even I couldn’t believe it when I heard these words coming out of mouth:

“Bob,” (his name was Bob), “what do the New York Yankees do?” I asked.

“They are a baseball team” Bob replied, incredulously.

“Of course, but they aren’t just a baseball team, are they?  They are a food vendor and merchandise seller, a television network owner and global brand manager.  Sure, they make money from ticket sales, but they make many, many times more revenue than that selling all the ancillary products and services their enterprise touches.”

I’m not sure Bob was tracking with me, so I went in for the kill.  “The Yankees are a baseball team, and could very easily just make money selling tickets to a baseball game.  But they rightly saw a captive audience from which they could make money selling hot dogs, and now they make tens of millions of dollars in revenue doing something that isn’t ‘who they are’”.

Who you are is a business.  What Bob didn’t see was that failing to exploit technology to increase revenue and drive efficiency is a failure of the business.  Sure, you are in XYZ industry and that is what you know, but can you sell some hot dogs, too?

Bob was right, in that a mobile app wasn’t “who they had been”, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t benefit from one. Recognizing when you need to supplement your enterprise with technology, even if it requires bringing in experts from outside your organization, can be a game-changing move.


Take a look at your business and your technology, and ask yourself “what am I leaving on the table?”  Is your public-facing website or mobile app converting add-on revenue?  Is your internal technology driving efficiency and profitability? Everyone can do better, but you need ask yourselves these questions.

Bob built that mobile app with me, and his organization got leaner and more profitable.  Try as I might, however, I couldn’t get him to incorporate an “order a hot dog feature”. Maybe in version 2…