Saturday, 22 October 2011

The nib and the ballpoint

This is a true and personal related part of the history.

In the beginning of the 1920’s my grandpa moved from Germany to Sweden because of the trouble in making business in Germany after WWI. He saw better possibilities in Sweden and took it. 1924 he started his own company in Sweden and imported nibs from Germany, nibs to put in fountain pens. Because of the sad WWII the possibility to import radically stopped. To continue business he was forced to start his own production of nibs and the company ‘Nordiska Pennfabriken’ ((NPF) translated: Nordic Pen Factory) was born. The production was a success and they more or less controlled the Swedish market. My grandpa became Mercher Emil Büchler. For his family, my father’s family, it was a “golden era”.

Remember; this was in a time where we didn’t have the internet, not even faxes. Information was brought by post, newspapers, barely by phone and of course from people to people. Short travel times didn’t exist and a videoconference…no it did definitely not exist. Facebook and Twitter? Neee.

Then suddenly, in the end of the 40’s - big BANG! Stop of the “nib golden era”. The ballpoint entered the market. My grandpa struggled for a few more years but he couldn’t compete and win against “the future”. In the end of the 50’s ballpoint’s had a total domination of the market and NPF stopped its production of nibs – NPF became part of the history. My grandpa continued his business focusing on offering other office equipment’s but he never really recovered from the ballpoint chock.

In Sweden we also have another similar non success story: Facit. A company who made mechanic calculators and who couldn’t compete with the cheaper produced and priced Asian electronic calculators. And I am sure there are a lot more similar stories around the world.

It is no excuse but no I can’t blame my grandpa for not monitoring the market well enough. Of course he in some way had heard about the ballpoint but he misjudged it. We can all learn from this that you never can take a laid back position. You have to find your tools to monitor your market. I haven’t really talked to my grandpa about this; he sadly passed away before I was old enough to do that. But I’m absolutely sure; with all the tools our generation has access to for communicating and monitoring trends and the market. If they would have been available for him and if not misjudging it he would have done the right steps to meet the upcoming possibility. He was an open minded and driven business man. His “golden nib era” wouldn’t have existed if he wasn’t.


- I might not lose my job. Maybe this is even more interesting, advanced and challenging to do.

- Can I widen my business? There might be other segments in the market to deliver to.

- How will this affect my business?

- Will my customer be faithful to me if I do or don’t do this?

- This might be the future. If not; be sure to tell why.

- I know my product is special and it have to exist and be produced like it is today. And I will tell and prove the market why.

- Is it a buzz? Do I do this already? Tell the market in the new terms. It’s very difficult to change the market if you are alone.

- Negative and positive. Be open minded but not unmindful.

I hope you all can translate nibs and ballpoints in to IT, and of course even into other areas. I don’t say cloud will give you a golden era. But - whether you’re an CIO, ISV, MSP, trusted advisor or IT-professional; you really have to take a look at cloud computing. You can’t afford to not know what it is + why you shouldn’t or when, how and why you should adopt it. You must know your position and why you took it. I’m pretty sure you don’t want to end up in a situation saying; Ooops, sorry owners... We were kind of “fat and happy”… Maybe we should have looked more into the future…sorry... You have to monitor the market, be responsive and ready for change - always! Ask yourself; is cloud “the ballpoint” for your business?

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