Back in the 80’s and early 90’s, technical manuals, configuration guides and pricing information were not readily available. The major computer OEM’s held onto that information as if they were trade secrets. If you needed support you went directly to them or an authorized value-added reseller (VAR). RAVE found ways to gain access and we became subject matter experts. It was one of our competitive advantages. It was also a competitive advantage to have regional offices as companies placed a lot of value on doing business locally or at least regionally. For about 15 years RAVE’s marketing would highlight our East Coast, Southwest, West Coast and European offices with Michigan as our headquarters. RAVE does still maintain a “local presence” in Orlando, Florida, though a now long-term consulting relationship.
The internet didn’t become commercialized until 1995, even then it took years before its adoption, especially at the small business level. It also took years for data to be added and indexed within the net. Search engines were very clunky. Google listed “Beta version” at the top of its webpage until 1999. Google, as we know it now, from an appearance perspective (kind of) did not exist until early 2001. In 1999 Google only had approximately 80 million pages indexed that could be searched. Today it is billions of pages and growing every day. Microsoft wasn’t even close to having a viable search engine product in those early years. Google Chrome wasn’t introduced until 2008.
Today information is a commodity; it is readily available to anyone from anywhere. Finding information is not a problem. Trusting the information you find, that gives someone the best overall solution, is the biggest problem. From a computer hardware/software integration perspective many sources will tell you what is compatible but you often can’t trust if the solution they suggest is also the most optimal. Especially if performance is a requirement.
Our regional offices served our purposes well at the time. Our methodology to opening an office was to identify a region then find a person who had both technical and business development skills. During most of those years RAVE also would sell used computer equipment, the local offices also helped us source equipment.
The old-fashioned concept of meeting your customer face to face and shaking hands is still effective and for some the only way to do business. However, now face to face can be done via digital services. In B2B, the concept of buying locally is not so much a consideration anymore. People go to national distributors and/or Amazon Prime as an example. Even related to services, a growing number of companies are comfortable with the concept of cloud computing and may not even know where their software and data is being stored.
Sometimes I can’t help but feel that the days of regional offices were the good old days. I enjoyed visiting the offices and with them their local customers. I can, but won’t tell you in print, a few stories visiting the office in Amsterdam. I grew up in a little midwestern town and had no idea what I would encounter when I visited there. I was very conservative so no worries, but boy was it eye opening.
Today, other than our consultant in Orlando, we operate out of our headquarters in Sterling Heights. We attend and exhibit at trade shows and events around the country as well as make customer visits. Maybe in the future we will just teleport where ever we need to go. Actually, not me, that is for the next generations of RAVEr’s.