Steve Brown | Crain's Orlando

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Steve Brown

Background:  

Orlando-based accesso Technology is a leading provider of queuing and ticketing technology solutions for the leisure, entertainment and cultural arts markets. Its patented technology can be found in 1,000-plus venues and attractions worldwide.

The Mistake:

I didn’t put myself in the consumer’s shoes.

Early in my post-business-school career, I was a financial analyst at Walt Disney World, and I was working on ticketing. I was the supposedly savvy analyst working on a particular ticketing project – and I worked on this particular initiative for weeks, probably even months. The math was very solid, and the assumptions were validated.

I created the most beautiful plan for how we were going to approach a new market segment. I created a kind of “periodic table of tickets.” It was an analytic work of art. Everyone thought it was great. They thought it was great work. And everyone signed off on it.

We rolled that initiative out and we couldn’t sell it – because it was so complicated. What I hadn’t done was put myself in the consumer’s shoes – and the people who sell to consumers, the travel agents, the websites, and all the different communications channels.

Don’t assume you know the full picture. You need to know your consumers.

The Lesson:

The math being “solid” in an analysis is not the full equation. You have to consider the consumer's behavior, the practicality of selling something. We see these mistakes all the time where [companies] will roll products out. Engineers will go over in the corner and create products that are marvelous to them. But then you put it into operation – the consumer is the operator. And the consumer says, “This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen,” because no one took the time to put themselves in the place of who they’re actually trying to sell it to.

I try to take a step away from the actual work and take the point of view of, “What’s it going to look like from the other side from ... from a consumer perspective?” And I’ll often tell about this “periodic table” from early in my career. It was a brilliant piece of work in many people’s opinion, but you couldn’t sell it. You couldn’t market it. The lesson is, don’t be so caught up in your own work that you can’t see the forest for the trees.

Don’t assume you know the full picture. You need to know your consumers. You’ve got to talk to people. You’ve got to get out on the street. I run into this all the time, where people try to use sophisticated products and technology or advanced analytics – all these fancy tools. But you know Warren Buffet said don’t ever invest in something you don’t understand. What I can say about ticketing is I’ve learned it from the inside out. There’s true value in really learning something so you can really internalize it in terms of the consumer.

So get out from behind the desk. I think people get very complacent or maybe slightly lazy sometimes. But you just can’t figure some of these things out without seeing them with your own eyes. You have to engage and ask the everyday, practical questions. Really immerse yourself in what you’re working on before you jump to conclusions or analysis.

Follow accesso Technology on Twitter at @accessoTech.

Photo courtesy of Steve Brown

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