Thomas J. Watson got home from work one evening, gave his wife a hug and proudly announced, “…Computing Tabulating Recording Company henceforth will be known as International Business Machines (IBM)”.
His son Watson Jr. said, “That little outfit?” It was later he realized that his dad must have had in mind the IBM of the future. Because the one he actually ran at that time was still full of cigar-chomping guys selling coffee grinders and butcher scales.
Imagine IBM by the name Computing Tabulating Recording Company, or Sony by the name Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo.
Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.
John F. Kennedy
Surviving at the Mercy of Predators
Currently trending on social web is the news of Google shutting down Linda Ikeji’s blog.
I don’t know Linda personally, but whenever I think of successful bloggers, she is the first to come to mind. As a lousy consumer of gossips, I don’t read her blog, but I admire her for being dogged, hardworking and passionate about what she does.
But each time I stumble upon Linda’s blog or read about her, I wonder why she has decided to stay old-school. I’m a fan of old-school in some ways, but not in a business as rapid-changing as the internet.
Linda is considered the most successful blogger in Africa. Her blog is the 10th most visited online platform in Nigeria. Yet, it is built on a borrowed land – owned by Google.
I’m not ignorant of the endless debate between Blogger and WordPress evangelists. But for an established blog like Linda’s, I expected some innovative moves.
The decision to stay blogging on a borrowed over owned platform is like avoiding becoming a landlord because of the stress of building and maintaining your own home. The tenant life seems a lot easier. But if you have been on the wrong side of a landlord, you may think otherwise.
The third party who owns the property can make a decision one day, one you have no control over, and a wonderful business is put to the edge of a cliff. Innovate or perish.
That is precisely what you risk every day you make your business completely dependent on another company; whether Google, Facebook or any other company.
It’s called digital sharecropping. And it means you are building your business on someone else’s land.
Everything you put on Facebook, Google or twitter, belongs to the company.
It’s like owning a TV show versus a TV station. I don’t know the inner workings but I’m guessing that to have your show on Silverbird TV, for instance, it must adhere to certain rules and regulations, term of service or something like that.
Considering the process of owning a TV station, you are better off producing a show or create a channel on YouTube.
Think of the TV station as Google’s Blogger.com and the TV show as Linda’s blog. Only that it’s not so difficult to move from a Show producer to own a TV station.
Blogging on a free platform like blogger is easy and less stressful compared to self-hosting on WordPress where you deal with security issues, bandwidth and down time.
But you have limited control over what goes into your allotted space. Go against the terms of service, and you are left at the mercy of the property owner.
Don’t just think the future, live it
People underestimate their capacity for change. There is never a right time to do a difficult thing.
No, this is not peculiar to anyone. We all have this fear.
It took me over three months contemplating to finally take the step to move from Blogger to WordPress in 2010. The first two months after the move smelled like doom. But for a short while.
Same with when I changed the URL structure of the blog in 2012. Making the decision was like when you approach a traffic light and it’s displaying the red and green light at the same time. Took me six months to finally take action.
The immediate result was an instant lose of 90% of search engine traffic and income. A disaster I lived with for close to eight months.
I survived it.
Truth. No one wants to wake up to find that a decision as simple as clicking a few buttons, has taking everything you have built in smokes.
But like Deepak Chopra said “All great change are preceded by chaos”
Accepting and making change can be difficult, especially when it involves something that seems totally strange and overwhelming. Like moving from digital sharecropping to become a digital landlord.
Eventually, we have to embrace change and the struggles that comes with it.
Thomas Watson knew that to get his company where he envisioned, there was no perfect time than now to proclaim a little struggling outfit, “international”. He was concerned about where the company was going, and not the short term impact of name-change.
If you are building your business online on another company’s property, there is never a better time to move.
If you need help, I’m a click or call away.