There are a number of books that business leaders commonly list as good sources of information and inspiration. Although not technically a business book, “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu, occasionally makes the list as a great resource for launching and managing a software development business — and for dominating in your market. For example, John Darienzo, doForms CEO, says, “It’s how I run my entire business: Never go to war until victory is already defined in your favor. Don’t move until you are sure you will win.”
Since its beginnings in 2012, doForms has been on a trajectory for success. The company, which provides mobile forms and workflow solutions for employees in healthcare, transportation, automotive, field services and other task-oriented industries, allows businesses of all sizes around the world to streamline processes and gain greater control of their operations. With doForms, a business’s employees can capture information on mobile forms and send it back to their office via the cloud, saving paper, time, and money.
Here are five ways doForms took its product and positioned it for success — now experiencing an annual growth rate of between 30 and 40 percent — by following the tenets of “The Art of War” for business.
Tenet 1: Laying Plans
Darienzo explains that with the rise of affordable iOS and Android mobile devices, as well as reliable and global network coverage for the first time in history, any size business could consider providing mobile technology to their employees. Software, however, was still very expensive and time-consuming to develop. doForms recognized and seized the opportunity to create a robust, yet affordable, mobile forms platform that gave their clients the functionality they needed quickly and at a price that now made technology cheaper than the paper forms they had been using for years.
“Identify where the market is in terms of your product,” Darienzo advises. “I think my solution is the end-all, be-all, but that doesn’t mean the world is ready to drop everything and be interested in it. Be smart enough to look at trends, see where the market is going and invest at the right time.”
doForms originally focused on apps for consumer-grade hardware, but now partners with hardware vendors like Brother, Zebra, and Honeywell that provide enterprise-grade mobility solutions designed specifically for its target industries. These commercial-grade products have become increasingly more affordable and offer many benefits not available to most companies in the past from laser barcode scanning to extreme durability under harsh conditions.
Tenet 2: Variations and Adaptability
doForms decided early on to design a scalable product that would allow non-developers to build robust mobile solutions using their knowledge of the business even if their technical skill set was limited to just using their own smartphone or tablet. At first, the solution was able to provide basic forms, but it’s now powered by a robust form-rendering engine that can generate a form to any specification in minutes. doForms makes it easy to ask questions, layout how they appear on a device and even decide if the question should be made visible based on how questions are answered. Customers can build in calculations, creating spreadsheet-like functions in a form for generating invoices and time.
Strategic Attack In Action
When it comes to strategic and complimentary partnerships, John Darienzo, CEO of doForms points to his partnership with Brother Mobile Solutions. “We needed an affordable and ergonomically correct mobile printer that was easy to use and reliable,” he recalls. “With Brother printers, a customer can build a form, collect their data, and leave a perfect printed document of the entire transaction with the customer.”
Darienzo says the intangibles of the relationship go well beyond the technology Brother provides his company. “Besides helping us to expand our product line, Brother is very willing to do joint marketing and we are now in several cases working customer opportunities together as a team,” he says. “They have introduced us to customers and have invited us to be in their booth at trade shows as well. When needed, Brother has also provided demo units for our customers.”
In recent months, Brother has revamped its ISV partner program. According to Darienzo, Brother’s efforts to engage in meaningful ways with developers is real. “They support their partners, put skin in the game when selling, and as an ISV, we get a boost in our credibility when we can show that we are partnered with one of the major players in the industry,” he explains. “I can see this partnership expanding as businesses worldwide start to realize that computers and printers are not just for people in the office anymore.”
Today, not only are the two companies jointly supporting one another’s sales efforts, Darienzo says Brother’s own sales team now uses doForms to facilitate the sale of its printers. Now that’s a powerful partnership.
“You can include critical data into forms like price books and customer lists and doForms provides a workflow engine that makes it easy to move a form from person to person as it is being worked on,” he says. “There is no paper-based or manual process that we can’t replicate and or make better using doForms.” Darienzo believes this agility has given doForms a decided edge over eform products. “They have to spend time figuring out how to do it, and usually end up asking the customer to pay for enhancements to supplement the missing functionality in their products,” Darienzo adds.
Tenet 3: Strategic Attack
Although doForms has the potential to help any business reduce paper and operate more efficiently, Darienzo says the company positioned its self to work with partners and not sell direct. “This strategy allows us to reduce channel conflict and eliminates the cost of a sales team,” he explains. “By facilitating the sales activity through other companies’ sales teams, we’re able to keep the price of our product down which makes it more sellable.”
Darienzo decided to market doForms primarily through businesses selling mobile devices, data plans, GPS tracking, MDMs and other products and services complimentary with the doForms service. Sales rep only needs to ask the prospective customer one simple question: “Do you use paper forms to manage your business?” If the answer is yes, which it most often is, then a form is converted, giving the prospect the ability to try before they buy and experience for themselves how much money the technology will save their business.
Because doForms can convert paper forms into doForms in minutes, the product can scale to support even the largest sales teams. “That’s why people like to partner with us. They bring us their leads, and we deliver the solution. It’s a win-win,” says Darienzo.
Tenet 4: Forces
doForms is offered on a Software as a Service (SaaS) basis at a low monthly price, so the company realized it needed a plan to get to the point where the business would be sustainable. First, doForms chose to work with angel investors rather than institutional investors. Darienzo says he did not need a lot of money to make doForms a success and the time and effort required to go the institutional route was not worth it. Raising money also dilutes ownership. doForms has been able to avoid shareholder dilution through effective money management and a focus on sales that quickly diminished its monthly burn allowing the company to become profitable. “Money always comes at a cost” he comments
Additionally, he formed a board of directors with the expertise to assist management in making good decisions for the company. “Most boards are comprised mainly of investors who view their role on the board as being watchdogs which often creates tension between the board and management,” he says. “We also broke with tradition and didn’t hire executives to fill every spot on the typical org chart. Too many companies feel the need to have a C level executive for everything, which can be expensive. You don’t need a CMO to hire a marketing firm. All too often companies spend money hiring a CMO and then have no budget left to give to a marketing firm to take action that will drive results. Why not just hire a great marketing firm and allocate your funds toward actual marketing initiatives?”
Darienzo also says not to listen to the nonsense that if you aren’t spending enough, you aren’t trying hard enough. “It’s too easy to say let’s raise $10 million and put a commercial on television and go to every trade show in the world,” he says. “That’s the mistake too many people make. You wind up running out of gas before the end of the race, or you wind up with so little equity all you did was make other people richer.”
Tenet 5: Movement and Development of Troops
Darienzo believes in the old saying “success has a lot of friends.” With more than three thousand customers now storing more than three billion forms in the doForms cloud, the company has worked hard to not only win deals, but to create a huge and valuable reference base. “At doForms many deals are won because our customers provide enthusiastic recommendations to our prospects,” he says.
As a global company, it is not always possible to have feet on the street everywhere. doForms publishes its prices and offers free trials online. Businesses all over the world at all hours of the day can hit “Try It Free” and, after their trial, convert to customers. If the customer needs a device or wireless network, doForms gives the lead to its partners to avoid conflict and to demonstrate that doForms can also be a lead source to them as well.
Everyday Art of War for Business
Darienzo says he routinely uses “The Art of War” for business decisions. Something as simple as prioritizing what features to work on next can have a profound impact on the success of the company. Making good strategic decisions means thinking through all the options, weighing the benefits of each from both a financial perspective and from a competitive perspective. “The Art of War teaches you to think carefully through all of your options, ultimately selecting the one you believe has the best chance of yielding the results you want,” he says. “Too many CEOs let other forces drive key decisions and then wish they had given it more thought after its too late.”
doForm’s success is proof that it’s wise to approach every decision in your business with the desired outcome in mind. Learn to go to battle already knowing you’ve won.