“There is no such thing as a commodity product, just commodity thinking.” — David Townsend
Anthony DiNatale was born in South Boston. He entered the flooring business with his father in 1921 and began a career of craftsmanship and woodworking. In 1933, he founded DiNatale Flooring in Charlestown, working job to job, primarily in the northeast United States. In 1946, Walter Brown approached DiNatale and asked him to build a floor for a new basketball team to use. DiNatale quoted him $11,000 to complete the project, and the deal was struck.
DiNatale quickly went to work, knowing that he had to be cost-conscious to complete the construction, since he had bid aggressively to win the project. He gathered wood from a World War II army barracks and started building. He quickly noticed a problem: the wood scraps were too short for him to take his traditional approach to building a floor. So he began to create an alternating pattern, changing the direction of the wood pieces to fasten them together. He kept creating 5-foot panels, and when he had 247 of them, his work was completed.
“If you want to receive something you’ve never had, you are going to have to do something you’ve never done.” — Chuck Hodges
In the late 1800’s, the United States was the dominant presence in the whaling industry. At $10mm — more than $20 billion in today’s dollars — it was the fifth largest sector of the US economy. Whales provided a source of energy (oil for lamps) and the basis of a number of luxuries (perfumes, umbrellas, etc.). Centered in Massachusetts, the industry was a major driver of employment and productivity.
The US’s dominance in whaling was largely due to innovation — larger/faster ships, better harpoons, improved winch technology for hoisting sails, and better compensation. The latter two innovations were especially interesting. The winch technology reduced the manpower needed on ship. Less sailors led to more profits and productivity. And the industry’s compensation model was one of the first true innovations in pay. Instead of an hourly or daily wage, the sailors were paid a percentage of what they brought back to shore. A true alignment of interests, driving higher productivity.
“If you aren’t genuinely pained by the risk involved in your strategic choices, it’s not much of a strategy.” — Reed Hastings
Enterprise software companies are facing unprecedented market pressure. With the emergence of cloud, digital, machine learning, and analytics (to name a few), the traditional business models, cash flows, and unit economics are under pressure. The results can be seen in some public stock prices (HDP, TDC, IMPV, etc.), and nearly everyone’s financials (flat to declining revenues in traditional spaces).