In the old economy, having real estate in the form of buildings, land and housing was a valuable asset. With the housing bubble, this traditional idea has been dramatically undermined. We have had a long love affair with real estate which made sense when our world was about the physical space we occupied.
However, economic development expert, Richard Florida, has done a great job articulating the dramatic shifts in our economy from the information age in his book, The Great Reset. We have felt the changes as the nature of work and organizations has dramatically shifted. Our work today is largely virtual. We don’t make things. We create and execute knowledge work. The internet has changed the game.
We experienced this once when factory automation replaced manual labor. It affected jobs for people as they became part of a process. Making things became easier and we could do it on a mass scale. It was a game of efficiency and people had to shift from their craftsmanship work to becoming part of the revolution.
This same revolution moved into the white collar workspace. Teams in corporate environments learned to execute along defined processes. We went to work for large corporations because that is where the tools were. Analysis software, printers, corporate intranets and project systems were bought by companies with large budgets and we used them to get things done as part of our job descriptions.
Many workers are still part of such environments. However, doing work that is repeatable, predictable and efficient in a white collar factory is being challenged today. The tools for production have been democratized and we have access to these with low costs and easy usage.
You Are What You Publish
Everyone is now a publisher. Everyone is now a marketer. Putting content out into the world used to have barriers. There were companies that specialized in this process that we would have to provide content to – audio, video, print. They picked who they liked and controlled the distribution channel.
The music we listened to, the movies we saw and the books we read were curated by marketing companies with the tools for distribution.
Now you have those tools. If you want to put something out there for the world to find and consume, you can do this in relatively short order. Of course, it still has to stand out from all the noise. Work that is crap gets ignored and your brand can be damaged quickly, just as it can gain momentum.
Think about real estate in a different way. You don’t have to have a bricks and mortar store anymore. Your website is your store. It works 24/7 and can allow buyers to purchase whatever you make available. A system has replaced the store front.
You don’t even have to have distribution. Someone else can fulfill what you sell if you build the automation in. This is true for any type of content as well.
Physical assets can be more of a liability than a benefit. For many businesses, they are discovering this is an albatross around their neck. They may be stuck with a polished office, yet noone visits anymore. They sell expensive merchandise, but orders are placed online.
My challenge to my clients and to you is to think how to avoid the overhead and drag of physical assets and build virtual assets. Think in terms of online systems and investing in processes, systems, software and marketing. These are the assets of the new economy. It can be changed, torn down and rebuilt much easier than office space.
Here are some ways to think about information assets:
- Persistence: The content you produce will be indexed by search engines and found. This makes you available to the world. Continue to work on your systems and your content gets found easier. You will persist on the internet forever.
- Interaction: The salesperson at Nordstrom depends on a face-to-face meeting. They are trained for and looking for body language. Your systems can be engineered to evaluate digital body language and present the right offer or the right communications based on the feedback you see from your buyers.
- Referrals: Your present customers can have means to share you with the world, specifically, their networks. You can build trust and credibility with strangers from the testimonials, likes, Tweets, and sharing of your content, service and experience. It’s a connected world.
- Sales Office: Most people like to research and learn about you from afar before having a conversation. Part of this is because they are not sure what they want. Furthermore, they can learn what questions to ask by being better educated. Your online assets act as a virtual place to get to know you, get educated and get comfortable with who you are. When they do connect via phone or in person, they feel like they know you.
These are some concepts to think about how to repurpose traditional concepts of real estate and place more stock into virtual systems that help extend your reach and build trust earlier.
When I built a company in the early days, we challenged ourselves to build as many information assets as possible. I can recall times where we were astounded that we could spend less than $100/month for our phone system compared to the $50K we previously spent in our previous business ventures. The world changed.
Everything from servers, meeting spaces, talent, markets and physical space changed for us and many other businesses. Real assets are in what you can deliver and how you present it to make it easy for customers to do business with you.
Your assets become virtual and around the information you provide at the right time. A major factor for this is operating in the cloud and understanding how systems work.