The Distraction of Being at the Top

Sadly, this article isn’t talking about Coalition Technologies. Although we offer some of the most talented programmers, web designers, and web developers (not to mention our search marketing expertise), we’re not the highest volume, largest grossing web design company anywhere. Hopefully, as we continue our exponential growth, we’ll be able to maintain the direct contact with our customer base that has made us so successful and made our work so much more affordable then our competitors. Whereas some of the major web design companies in Los Angeles and the rest of the United States force clients to be filtered through layers of non-technical, non-contributing employees, we encourage direct engagement of our project managers (both marketing and technical) with clients. That allows us to keep our overhead down, and allows us to provide the same technical and marketing expertise, without the wasted funds.

This article is really about the major players in the web space and how, once they arrive at the top, they get too caught up in the idea that they can only grow by finding other avenues to generate revenue. Once they’re at the top of the peak, they look out and see all the other mountains to climb in the range and forget what it took them to get where they are today. Don’t believe me? Find one major web player that got to be a major web player by doing more then specializing in one strong core. Then tell me which of those major web companies is now still fully dedicated to that core skill.

You won’t be able to do it. A friend and client of mine, Jeremy, went through this discussion with me over dinner the other evening in Los Angeles. We went through the list of big names and legitimately, not a single one remains dedicated to what they do well.

Google started as a search provider- they focused on finding ways to innovate search and making it more useful and accessible to every user. That made them who they are. But now? Social networking, video streaming, payment gateway, eBay lite, blogging, consumer agency, marketing company, software developer, hardware developer, library, music store, etc. Has search gotten any better or just more distracting? I’ve noticed the list of organic results seems to be getting smaller and smaller as the ads get bigger and bigger, and as Google starts to show more preference to their big spending advertising partners. I like many of the products they offer, but I do feel like their downfall is going to come from the fact that they don’t remain committed to providing better search (other then on paper). Rather then innovate or create, they simply add new features (often carelessly) and fail to improve my user experience.

Facebook, Microsoft, and many others are no better. Rather then really remaining dedicated to their core specializations, they choose to branch out, distract, divide efforts, etc. Their end products are weaker, less meaningful, and provide little change in the user experience.

Ultimately, I think that is one of the big lessons from the outpouring of support for Apple and Steve Jobs. More then any other company, they remained committed to their fan base (devotees, zealots, whackos) and delivered products with consistent, familiar features, processes, and navigation. Over the last ten year period, I think more then any of these other companies, they have provided innovations- from the iPod to the touch screen phone to the consumer popularization of the tablet device, Apple has made things new or rethought them in such a way that they might as well have been new. There are a number of reasons I’m not a huge Steve Jobs fan or Apple fan boi, but I do have to tip the cap to them for their ability to deliver solid products reliably without losing site of their user base and core expertise.

Hopefully a few of these companies will be able to recognize that the balance books of Apple aren’t from getting distracted- they’re from staying specialized and finding new ways to reach new consumers with the same core specializations. Its a big world we live in- I don’t need three or four social networks, I don’t need three or four search engines, or document processes. Be good at what you do, and when you get to be great at it, don’t abandon ship.

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