Stick to the Knitting

Simon Richards
Written by: Simon RichardsPublished: March 16, 2017

It is one of the best selling business books of all time with over eight million copies shifted and the staple diet of any business school student in late 1980s early 90s. In Search of Excellence was first published in 1982, written by two McKinsey consultants, Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman. In it they looked at the common characteristics which make successful companies truly excellent.  We’re talking among others Boeing, Johnson & Johnson, P & G, Wal-Mart, Levis Strauss, HP, Xerox, IBM and even Digital Equipment Corporation (long since sold off to Compaq who themselves were absorbed into HP).

Peters and Waterman’s research honed in on eight key attributes of success and the lessons from America’s best run companies.  Click here to read all of them although outlined below are several to give you a flavour:

  1. Close to the customer. Excellent companies learn from the people they serve.  They provide unparalleled quality, service and reliability – things that work and last. As a VP at IBM said, “It’s a shame that in so many companies, whenever you get good services, it’s an exception.”
  1. Productivity through people.  The excellent companies treat rank and file staff as the root source of quality and productivity gain.  They do not foster we/they labour relations or see capital investment as the fundamental source of efficiency improvement.  Thomas Watson Jr said that the ‘Respect for the individual’ was the most important part of IBM’s business philosophy and a huge amount of management time was spent on it.
  1. Hands on, value driven. William Hewlett was legendary for walking his plant floors. McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc, regularly visited his stores and assessed them on the factors that his company holds dear: quality, service, cleanliness and value.

But the one that resonates most with me, is “Stick to the knitting.” It is what we do at IGEL. Simply put, the odds for excellent performance seem to strongly favour those companies that stay reasonably close to businesses they know.  In the book it states that Boeing’s strength comes from its almost singular devotion to the commercial airline market where it derives 90% of its revenues. Said one airline official, “The other guys are too busy chasing military bucks. At Boeing, the airlines come first.”

Being focused on what you know, understand and are good at is crucial. Making wild forays into new markets and industries – spreading yourself thin – and expecting a smooth ride is the false hope of at best an optimist and, at worst, a fool. They are many corporate examples of where firms have failed when they have tried to become conglomerates. As former Johnson & Johnson chairman, Robert Johnson said, “Never acquire a business you don’t know how to run.”

At IGEL, we are focused on being focused. Our raison d’être is endpoint management. That’s all we do. And we have been doing it since the business was founded in 1989.

  • We invest hugely in product development each year. Innovation is a hallmark of IGEL’s approach.
    • That’s why in December 2016, we launched UD Pocket, the industry’s first thin client solution which temporarily makes any Intel x86 based desktop a VDI thin client without over writing the local OS.  UD Pocket is perfect for companies who want to extend the life of their existing desktops or allow staff to work from home or bring their own devices into the workplace yet control this carefully.   UD Pocket comes on a small USB stick.  Plug it in, the local device boots up the IGEL OS from it allowing the person to access their corporate IGEL desktop with all the corporate security policies applied automatically.  Once the user has finished, removing UD Pocket means the local device then reverts to is original state and existing OS.
    • In addition, in February 2017, we announced IGEL Cloud Gateway which is a breakthrough development allowing all IGEL endpoints – outside the corporate network – to connect to corporate systems irrespective of whether they are managed in the cloud or on-premise.  IGEL Cloud Gateway in effect acts as a secure virtual tunnel outside a corporate network without the requirement for a firm to buy expensive VPN or leased line solutions.  IGEL Cloud Gateway supports all IGEL devices including UD Pocket and means you have a completely secure endpoint solution wherever your users are geographically located.
  • We manage thin clients cleverly using a software-defined approach. It explains why we now employ 75 software engineers out of a total team of 300.   This makes it easier for customers to update firmware and functionality, introduce support for new protocols whenever they are launched irrespective of our technology partner.
  • We have over 1,000 resellers worldwide selling our products and over 60 technology alliances with the experts in virtualisation, cloud and so on, including AMD, Citrix, Intel, Microsoft, Samsung and VMware.
  • We have a strong international presence from San Francisco to Sydney which means 24/7 support for customers.
  • We have a proven track record with over 2 million IGEL clients sold to date and a customer base in excess of 17,000. It means a wealth of experience so we can hit the ground running on any new project

While we also have many of the above characteristics of the best run firms covered In Search of Excellence, above all, we stick to the knitting.

Peters and Waterman would be impressed.