Ron Seide used to work for Cisco Systems in its wireless network business unit making products for manufacturers of data collection. What he did was part of a relatively small niche market, and as a result, Cisco put less and less focus on it until ultimately deciding to stop that line of business.
Seide and some colleagues saw this as an opportunity and formed Summit Data Communications Inc., a Wi-Fi solutions company.
“Something that was relatively small for Cisco was actually quite substantial for an independent company,” says Seide, president of Summit Data Communications. “As a result we were able to convince customers that worked with Cisco to work with former Cisco employees who were looking to bring to market a successor product to what Cisco was doing.”
Smart Business spoke to Seide about how Summit Data Communications has exploited a niche and is looking to continue expanding its reach.
Find a niche. It’s good to find a niche and fill it, but it’s even better to create a niche and fill it. It all comes from having an understanding of the market you want to serve. You have to understand the markets that you want to serve and then create a unique set of products or services that you can then hold up as being your very own niche.
It’s really no secret. It’s really talking to customers. Between myself and our sales staff and technical staff, we have a very permeable membrane in the organization where information constantly flows back and forth between ourselves and our customers, ourselves and our partners, ourselves and our supply chain. It really is about openness and willingness to speak with external parties on a very regular basis and that will help you understand what the market is all about. No amount of reading, no amount of studying or looking at reports really gives you that sort of rich, deep set of knowledge of the marketplace than just being in constant contact with external parties.
Grow organically. The initial start of the company was an incremental step from what Cisco was doing, but having then established that beach head, we have now expanded that into new technology and new markets. It’s those new technologies and those new markets that will fuel our growth going forward.
This technology is used in bar code scanning, factories, warehouses, distribution centers and big box retailers, all of which are supply chain applications. One driver of growth for us is the increasing automation of organizations’ supply chains. The bar code becomes an increasingly integral part of an organization as they try to gain efficiency.
At ball games and concerts, tickets are now being scanned commonly by handheld computers with bar code readers on them. That’s just one example of how bar code readers and handheld computers, which use our radio module are being found in new applications and therefore new growth opportunities for the industry and new growth opportunities for us.
In terms of identifying new growth opportunities, oftentimes your set of products and services that works in one market may play well in other markets. It’s a great way to gather low-hanging fruit and build incremental revenue. It doesn’t necessarily require new products or new capabilities; it just requires the willingness to move out of your comfort zone.
Brand your business. Following our customers and responding to our customers requirements caused us to indentify a whole new class of devices that we could access and a class of devices that had requirements for our unique set of capabilities.
When we started out, we were targeting all of our marketing and sales efforts on the parties that were directly one step up stream from us. You have to build up a brand. What we did was with each Summit radio that we sell that comes along with a software application, which runs with the device. On that software application is the Summit name, the Summit logo and a variety of different ways to identify to the end user that the device contains a Summit radio.
By doing that we are able to build a pull-through demand. You can establish a preference amongst the customers of your customers. It sets up an entrance into other markets because you have a brand and others don’t. It’s not enough to have a unique set of capabilities. Beyond that you have to also make it known who the provider of that unique set of capabilities is, not just to your direct customers but to customers down stream from your customers.
HOW TO REACH: Summit Data Communications Inc., (330) 434-7929 or www.summitdatacom.com