Want to grow your business? Think ‘versions’

By JJ Rosen April 26, 2021
thinking versions for business with a plant

By Atiba Founder & CEO, JJ Rosen; This article originally appeared in The Tennessean

“Bill Gates is a very rich man today … and do you want to know why? The answer is one word: versions.” — Dave Barry

Most people don’t remember Microsoft Windows 1.0.  It was way back in the fall of 1985 that Bill Gates launched what eventually became the dominant desktop operating system that we all know today.

Windows 1.0 was quite different from the current Windows 10 version that nearly 75% of the world uses on their PCs today.

Windows started as just a simple graphical interface for MS-DOS that made it easier for non-geeks to use a PC.  Apple, which had released its easy-to-use Apple Macintosh nearly two years earlier, was not happy with  Windows’ similarities to the Mac, but nevertheless the battle for the desktop was on.

Before long, millions of PC users were buying Windows 3.1 with new and improved features making Microsoft a household name.  Windows 95, Windows 8.1, Windows 10— thanks to the model of releasing new versions every few years, the product has kept pace with changing times and made Bill Gates very (very!) happy.

In the software world, “versioning” has been established as a highly profitable business model.  From Version 1.0 to Version 1.1 on up, the idea is to keep improving your product one step at a time to meet the ever-changing demands of customers —perpetually.

Sometime in the mid-90s, when our company was just a few years old, I started to think about this concept of versioning outside of just software (yes, I am a geek).

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Just like a software application, businesses themselves must always be improving in order to survive and grow, I figured. Constantly looking for efficiencies, changing your offerings as customers’ needs change, reducing the risks of crashing, improving your operations — as time goes by, great companies, like great software, are always getting better.

Like version 1.0 of Windows, version 1.0 of companies are often rough around the edges.

Version 1.0 of our company was just me working day and night trying to do everything.  Once I realized that this was not scalable, our 2.0 version pushed me to hire an employee.  Our 3.0 version built upon that when we expanded the types of services we offered, and then 4.0 focused on improving our customer service and our accounting.

Nearly 30 years since we started, we are now on version 21 of our firm, trying to adjust and become better every step of the way.

Just as with introducing a new version of a software product, introducing a new version of a company is not without risk.

It can be hard to know when to take the “if it’s not broken don’t fix it” approach, and when to make a change.  And every so often, a version upgrade can backfire, making things worse. (Think of it as just another reason to make yet another version!)

But that challenge of forever reinventing yourself is most likely worth the risk of making mistakes along the way. Just ask Bill Gates.

JJ Rosen is the founder of Atiba, a Nashville IT support and custom software development firm. Visit Atiba.com for more info.

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