Box strategy holds lessons for other businesses

When the topic of cloud storage comes up, Box is usually mentioned as one of the chief players along with rival services like Dropbox, SkyDrive, Google Drive, SugarSync, and others. However, storing data in the cloud is one of the only similarities Box has with these competitors, because Box is marching to the beat of its own drum.

On the surface, Box seems like a cloud storage option, and it is. It’s also much more than that. Box does not think in terms of providing cloud storage. Box has a larger vision: “To make sharing, accessing, and managing content ridiculously easy.” Storing data in the cloud is just one element of how Box strives to achieve that goal.

This week, Box unveiled some significant updates to its service, along with the announcement of a new consulting practice to guide customers. Box now includes basic data loss prevention functionality, and introduced features for the IT admin console that can automate document workflow. In addition, Box is now offering professional consulting services—partnering Box Consulting with Capgemini to offer expert guidance to help customers get the most from Box cloud services.

Aaron Levie close-up Stephen Lawson

Aaron Levie, Box co-founder and CEO, was recently selected as Inc. Magazine’s entrepreneur of the year for 2013. Levie’s recognition as entrepreneur of the year isn’t based solely on the measurable success of Box—which supports over 20 million users spanning 200,000 companies, including 97 percent of the Fortune 500. Inc. Magazine chose Levie because of intangibles that go beyond delivering cloud storage.

Inc. explains, “Cloud storage is basically a commodity. Levie recognized this early on and changed Box’s orientation from consumers to enterprise customers, where his relentless focus on great design was particularly striking—and thus he put some distance between Box and the pressures of the commodity marketplace. He moved quickly into mobile. He got out in front of fears about security. He was, and is, unencumbered by legacy ideas and models, and he keeps making good decisions.”

There is a lesson there for other businesses—not just cloud storage providers—in that last sentence. Keep an open mind, and don’t paint your business into a corner, or limit your potential by focusing exclusively on established ideas and models.

The other side of that coin, though, is to understand what your core strengths are, and use partnership and collaboration to expand your value rather than diluting your resources trying to be everything to everyone. There’s a fine line between “thinking outside the box” and delivering value that breaks with tradition, and “jumping the shark” by trying to deliver products or services that are simply outside of your company’s area of expertise.

The best way to compete is not to compete. Focus on delivering value for your customers, and let that value earn your place in the market. If you divert your attention from your customers to your competition, you will lost sight of what’s important, and ultimately cause your own demise.

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