On Logistics

EDS ran a Superbowl commercial about herding cats. UPS made a commercial with a song about logistics. These two large corporations have built multi-billion dollar businesses around the expertise of logistics. But isn’t every business in the business of logistics? Here are a few examples.

  • In a software company, you must manage the logistics of agile development, testing, deployment, user feedback, bug-fixes, version control, and, most of all, customer relationships and the revenue that comes from them.
  • In a services business, you must manage the logistics behind the delivery of your services to your client, on the client’s terms, on the client’s calendar, sometimes at the client’s location, while managing the provision of those services on your end with your team of experts in whatever services you’re providing.
  • In a computer hardware (or other physical product) business, the logistics about prototyping, testing, manufacturing, distribution, returns, support, customer service, replacements all must mesh with sales and marketing as they work with customers who can touch and feel the product you’re selling.
  • In a retail business, you must manage the logistics of personnel, inventory, cash on hand, returns, physical location, promotions, all around the needs of your target customer and their schedule.

And then there’s life, in which you must manage the process of work, home, school, marriage, kids, friendships, church, clubs, sports, vacations, extended family, finances, while meeting the needs of the people closest to you in your life.

And that’s what it really comes down to: meeting the needs of those you are serving, whether they are software licensees, product users, service clients, walk-in customers, or your family and friends. I enjoy vetting out a great and challenging process, but I watched in awe today as the leader of my daughter’s 7th grade science trip to Jekyll Island managed 20 parents and 75 seventh graders, meeting the needs of everyone involved, and made it look easy.

What’s her secret? Planning and experience. She’s done this trip 12 times, and she plans relentlessly. It’s really tough to do a tech startup successfully if you’ve never done it before, because you don’t have the experience on which to base your plan. You’re forced to lean on the knowledge you can glean from others and your instincts. But the only way to do it is to try. I’d much rather look back and regret things I tried and failed at (like five failed businesses) than look back and regret not trying.

What do you think?