What does it mean to “eat your own dog food”?

It means using the products that you sell.  Why does it matter?  Here’s two examples, both are real experiences.  And each has a different outcome.

Story #1: The DropBox vs SharePoint Disaster

A number of years ago, a small client of ours was using DropBox to share files between all their employees.  We decided that SharePoint would be a better choice since we were already migrating their e-mail to Office 365 Exchange.  We successfully tested SharePoint by creating a Document Library, uploading some files and folders, and synced them to our desktops with OneDrive. Good enough right?

Not in this case.  We ran into countless limitations, which we discovered were well documented by others who had tried the same thing.  Migration was a nightmare and we wrote off more time than we quoted on the project.  We ate the cost and learned a lot. Through the experience we learned that reading the marketing materials, checking blog posts and forums, as well as running a small test was just not enough.

So what did we do in response?  We migrated our own company to Office 365 and now use it at Syscal.  We’ve transformed the environment we rely on every single day so that we know it inside out.  We walk the walk so to speak because  we know the operating environment the majority of our small business clients need to use.  This helps us better serve our clients because we operate in the exact environment that we recommend to our clients.

Story #2: The Meraki Phone System Success

Cisco Meraki has an amazing line of cloud managed products.  We use their firewalls, switches, WiFi, and cameras exclusively in both our office and our data-centre.

When Meraki released their line of phones we were very excited.  Not only did they create a gorgeous and high-quality desk phone, it presented an opportunity for us offer phones to our clients; something we previously grouped with websites (just because we can, doesn’t mean we should).

We were using RingCentral at the time so when we moved into our new office, we decided to migrate to the Meraki phone system.  We discovered a few sizeable opportunities in our client base to sell this phone system, but under our new philosophy we held off on selling the phones until we could learn the ins and outs of the phone system itself.  It didn’t take long before we discovered this offering was missing a lot of key features. So much so that Meraki decided to pull the product from their website while they fixed the base functionality.

Fast forward nearly one year and we received an announcement that Meraki was scrapping their line of phones.  We submitted an RMA for full refund and recycled the phones.

If we had moved forward with selling the phones without validating the product, we would have had a number of difficult conversations.  And we would have been forced to quote labour for another phone system project; “Well ma’am, at least you got a refund on the product!” That’s not how we operate at Syscal.  Plus, we wouldn’t have had another phone that we could migrate clients to.

The takeaway?

We’re a small business ourselves, but our infrastructure at Syscal is much more complex than any of our clients. Because we successfully grow and run our business on the products we sell, we’re confident in our abilities to support and train our clients in the same way.

That’s why we eat our own dog food. Bon appetit!