I work in a community eye care practice. My business partner says we should buy new technology as soon as it becomes available so we are the best-equipped practice in the area. We have been doing this for around two years and have bought lots of equipment that now lies idle. Because we don’t know how to use it or it doesn’t work properly or because we don’t know how to charge for it or because we can’t see how it provides value to our patients. We have wasted a lot of time and money. Do you have any advice on how we can avoid this?

It sounds as if your business partner is an advocate of ‘first mover advantage’. Be the first to offer a service and it will bring new patients to your practice and beat the local competitors.

Seldom does it really matter. History is full of companies that were not the first and still became the dominant force in their markets. It is better to focus on your service and customers than worry about others.

For example, (on a larger scale) Microsoft was years behind Apple in graphics and now dominates that market. Lotus 1–2–3 was ahead of Excel. Neither Friendster nor MySpace dominates social media despite being first movers.

The thinking is that if you can get a new service out before anyone else, you’ll be able to build a better business and have more patients while the competition is asleep, and by the time they provide the same service, you’ll have a huge head start and enjoy market leader status for years to come.

But the first-mover advantage is more likely to be a first-mover liability. Especially in an environment where technology is changing fast and markets are still evolving being first to market is hardly a guarantee of future success.

Let others buy the latest equipment and see how they get on. Keep up to date with reviews of the equipment and talk with those who have purchased it. Wait until it is absolutely clear that it works, your staff can use it, how you will charge for it and what value it adds to your patients. You can always purchase equipment after your competitors have and use your excellent reputation and excellent customer service to attract patients to your new service.

Focus on your services, your patients, and your business. Not on the competition and not on being a first mover. Sometimes waiting is better than moving.


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