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Innovation and Stability: An Unlikely Pair

By David West
August 17, 2015

If you know much at all about Equinox, you probably know that the company has been around for almost 30 years, that the average tenure of our staff is almost 15 years, and among our developers it’s almost 18 years. These are facts I like to share with everyone I meet, as I think they reveal a lot about who we are and how we do business.

Our stability, however, can create a bit of tension at times. We sit at the junction of two dynamic and rapidly evolving disciplines: telecommunications and software development. Sometimes it seems that the accepted wisdom for companies like Equinox is that your business model, your employees, and your ideas have to be new, young, and fresh to have any value.

Almost every month I am interviewed by a reporter or provide a briefing to an analyst, and it seems the conversation often goes the same. On the lookout for the newest, most novel, or cutting edge stories, I can often sense the disappointment when I tell them that we’re continuing to do what we’ve done for years: making incremental changes to time-tested, market-proven solutions based on feedback from customers.

Years ago, I felt embarrassed that I didn’t have a better answer. Twenty years of watching “new” and “cutting-edge” vendors come and go has cured me of that. In that time, Equinox has continued to expand the markets we serve and added many new customers. Like the tortoise racing the hare, it seems that slow and steady is allowing us to win the race.

We may move slowly, but we are not standing still. The solutions we sell today are very different than our offerings from 5 or 10 years ago. The way we have gone about adding to our product set and enhancing our applications however has been evolutionary and organic.

While it sounds dull and drab compared with many high-tech firms, the truth is we have never spent a penny on market research or product R&D. We’re not big fans of risk, and few things are more risky then trying to guess what other people are willing to buy. In the high-stakes game of big budget R&D, a wrong guess means the money invested has to be recovered some other way. If, like us, you’re not willing to take on debt or outside capital that leaves only one option: charging more for things that the market does embrace, effectively creating a tax on viable products to pay for failed initiatives.

We take a different approach altogether—explaining how we’ll build the things our customers need once they’ve paid for them. Until someone parts with money, their desire for something is only theoretical. That’s why the only truly reliable market research is a customer with a purchase order. While this approach provides some revenue to offset our development costs, more importantly, it provides the confidence that the resulting solution will in fact address a proven business need. Experience has taught us that if one customer has a business need we can meet, then there are always many more facing the same challenge.

For this model to be successful, we’ve had to focus on winning not just our customers’ business but also their hearts. Having proved our commitment to their success, our customers trust us and are fanatically loyal. When they need a new solution or an enhancement to an existing product, we’re the first call they make. By cultivating these relationships, and consistently listening and responding to our customers, our product set has naturally grown and changed over the years. As a result, the new products, features, and enhancements that develop from these endeavors actually address real-word issues and are inherently marketable. Additionally, this approach ensures that the stability we enjoy in the form of decades long relationships with employees and customers is a catalyst rather than an impediment to innovation.

So what does this relationship-based approach look like in practice? Currently we have multiple customer-driven innovations in the works—more than any other time in our history, in fact. Stay tuned for more details!

About the Author: David West is Executive Vice President of Equinox Information Systems. David oversees the company’s sales and marketing team, develops the company’s long-term strategic plan, and works directly with the company’s hundreds of customers across the United States, Europe, Australia, and Asia. When he is not helping Equinox achieve record growth, he enjoys spending time with his family, playing basketball, and serving his community through his efforts at Salvation Army of Middle Tennessee and St. Bartholomew's Church. To learn more, visit www.equinoxis.com or call (615) 612-1200.