Self-Disrupt or Die: A Pivot to New Technology Can Ensure Survival
by Cortland Brady January/February 2019
Aspen Field Services’ founder Cortland Brady looks at the ways recent technology has disrupted or even completely transformed other industries, often leaving companies who failed to adapt out of business. He believes the financing and leasing industries are no different and encourages brokers, lessors and asset managers to become their own disruptors, before someone else does it for them.
Cortland Brady, Founder and CEO, Aspen Field Services
Industry behemoths are losing market share and some have even declared bankruptcy as they’ve been reluctant to accept technological change. According to the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Report, only 12% of fortune 500 companies present in 1955 are still in business; last year alone, 26% fell off the list. In the midst of a radically shifting climate in the world of work, little space remains for traditional sentiments like “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” In all reality, even if it’s not yet broken, it will likely soon be obsolete. As early as the 1990s, Bill Gates recognized the necessity for new innovation stating, “In three years, every product my company makes will be obsolete. The only question is whether we’ll make them obsolete or somebody else will.”
FINTECH IS THE FUTURE
Businesses can only make momentous leaps by challenging the status quo, and in the current climate, that equates to a lean-in approach to technology. Successful companies like Apple, Uber, and PayPal didn’t disrupt industries by asking how they could improve on competitors’ products. These companies are built on a culture of large scale, exorbitant change. To make leaps, we must get away from questions that are based around incremental improvement, and embrace the outrageous.
A few provocative questions:
How could we put ourselves (and in turn our competitors) out of business?
How can we double our growth and halve the operation costs?
“How can we achieve our 10- year plan in the next 6 months?” — Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal
In asking these disruptive questions, you’ll likely find that the solutions lie in fintech. Technology is generating rapid amelioration, and businesses must revolutionize accordingly if they want to insure longevity.
STEALING THE MARKET, SHAPING THE MARKET
Four years ago, taxi and car rental companies dominated the ground transportation market with shares of 55% and 37% respectively, according to a 2018 SpendSmart report. Monopolizing on a hole in the market, Uber emerged and quickly revamped the entire industry. With an affinity for technology, Uber and similar rideshare companies created a system that allowed customers to book conveniently from their phones, review drivers and track down items left in the car. Within a matter of a few years, the same SpendSmart report found rideshare companies accounted for 72.5% of the market, leaving taxi and car rental companies in a trail of frenzied competition.
Embracing technology with components of fintech was crucial in Uber’s market takeover. While competitors endeavored to stay afloat in a shifting arena, they ultimately saw extraordinary losses in their shares of the market. By 2018, car rental companies accounted for only 22.3% of the market and taxis a mere 5.2%. Their decline was not for lack of innovation — they were in fact making incremental updates like installing credit card machines and TV screens — but possibly for their failure to adapt within the framework of the larger market. Had these players expanded their focus from what they do to why they do it, they likely would have noticed the space for growth in the industry. Less than 10 years ago, rideshare apps did not exist. Now, they are valued together at nearly 100 billion dollars. They not only stole the market but transformed it entirely.
FINTECH IS ASSET MANAGEMENT
A constant eruption of new technology is simplifying processes for businesses and consumers throughout the financial sector. Venmo and similar apps have facilitated the quick transfer of money between parties with the click of a button. DocuSign has increased security and will, in the future, eliminate the need for in-person and notary signatures with facial recognition technology and instant signature confirmations. The financial industry is beginning to embrace wide stream use of blockchain, which will remove much of the waste and due-diligence that accompanies the transfer of assets. Yet despite these advancements, the inspection industry reflects a cautious relationship with technology.
Determined not to repeat the mistakes of taxi and car rental companies, we founded Aspen Field Services with an eye on technology and intent to innovate. Defining what the inspection industry does and, more importantly, why, allowed us to pinpoint areas of opportunity. As we considered the purpose of inspection companies — to collect data on assets to mitigate risk for financial institutions — we noticed a significant space for innovation in the market. While the lending industry had advanced and grown, the inspection industry had remained nearly stagnant. We asked some big, hairy, audacious questions and set out to revolutionize all aspects of the inspection process. From geographical reach to turnaround time to risk mitigation, we sought to create an inspection process that could be performed anywhere in the world with ten times the accuracy of comparable reports and with results compiled within hours of receiving the request.
The moxie of this goal was laughable, but that was the point. Its absurdity spurred ingenuity. GoVideo was born in response to asking those ridiculous questions. Our solution to the cumbersome operation was to create a unique technology to streamline third-party asset verifications. This condensed the process from days to mere minutes, resulting in lower costs but higher accuracy and security. With expedited inspections came expedited funding. Where rush orders used to allow for next day funding, GoVideo created a means for same hour or even real-time funding. In an age where information is readily at our fingertips, it was only fitting to bring that same speed to equipment finance.
SELF-DISRUPT OR DIE
Fintech is the future, and as technology becomes increasingly inseparable from every aspect of daily life, it behooves businesses to harness it for their benefit. Embrace it. Ask uncomfortable questions. Figure out how to revolutionize your business through technology. It is your responsibility to innovate, because if you don’t, someone else will. We are excited to see how your innovations disrupt the financial industry in 2019!
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The American Association of Commercial Finance Brokers hosted its annual conference this past May in (viva!) Las Vegas. Paul Burnham provides a rundown of the three-day event, which offered attendees the chance to learn, network, and, in the spirit of its host city, maybe go home with an extra prize or two.