ATLANTA, May 26, 2015 – It turned out to be a near-fatal mistake. Much has been written about the decline of a company that less than a decade ago was the dominant platform in mobile telecommunications. Research In Motion (RIM), the parent company of Blackberry’s founder and co-CEO, all but entirely dismissed the small glass object Steve Jobs presented in January 2007. A number of legitimate reasons were cited about why it wouldn’t succeed but within three short months, Blackberry was on its heels and facing pressure from the now iconic iPhone.
What most of us have forgotten is that the first iPhone operated on an older, slower, second-generation network and the battery drained very quickly compared to the Blackberry. “By all rights the product should have failed but it didn’t,” states David Yach, RIM’s chief technology officer. “I learned that beauty matters…RIM was caught incredulous that people wanted to buy this thing.”
Around that same time, many of us in the landscape world found out what it felt like to be RIM, but for exactly the opposite reason. The competitive landscape was changing for our industry but it was devolving from a business of beauty and service to one of pure function, when relevant at all. Driven by economics, lack of backlog and the segment shifts by national companies, all who survived took measures to quickly adjust.
Personally, I can identify with the moment that our industry, the services we provided, and many of our long-term relationships suddenly became irrelevant. Our companies were reduced to no more than a means to an end for under-funded and often poorly managed projects and properties. Track record, quality, reliability and relationships were no longer the reason for existence. Many companies played the short game, providing below cost prices, poor quality and even cutting enormous amounts of scope in the incessant competition for cash flow at all costs – this became all-important for so many – but this was a short play.
For Gibson, our transition from smaller local projects and local self-managed HOAs to CRE, regional assignments in landscape, decorative concrete and hardscapes was born out of a determination to survive. “Go where the work is” became our mantra as we committed to remain relevant during a period of downsizing and company closures. Our people met the challenge and found that the end product was an opportunity to create beauty and true craftsmanship in spite of the business pressures of performing in a junk economy and competing on a regional platform. We took risks. We used our talents and dedication to create value and enduring landscapes above what the market was delivering. We built the beauty that drives our passion, but it required clients who recognized the value, shared our belief that beauty matters.
Like those first iPhones, many of our first assignments may have been a little slow. We may have been overloaded and our batteries certainly gave out too soon. But through our experiences we have grown and our commitment to beauty has strengthened. Our partners continue to stretch us but our team has never failed to choose quality and beauty first, never failed to stand behind the results. We are not yet where we think we will be in the future; however, our work to date is a tremendous example of commitment and sacrifice by our team.
It’s our clients who will tell us when, where, and how fast we will grow. Meanwhile, we will continue to get it right and perform at a level above the market, a level that is remarkably relevant amongst the community. This process is authentic and egoless. It continues to unfold while we hone our skills and prepare for opportunities to present themselves. A request can come at any given moment and most likely it will be a bold challenge to meet an unmet expectation. We’re ready.
As with Apple, we won’t always get it 100% right, but we will approach assignments with the same rigor by asking ourselves these questions:
- “Are we creating beauty and long-term value for our clients?”
- “What impact will we have on those who interact with our services?”
- “Does this relationship exist within an environment of mutual victory?”
These questions will continue to guide us so we never grapple with who we are or experience the lack of clarity that comes from not knowing our relevance within our space.