Microsoft, Toilets and Service Providers
Maybe Andy Dwyer had it right after all, just 20 years before his time. Does anyone remember Andy? He was the CEO of JWP (Jamaica Water Properties), which started in the 1960’s as a water supply company mainly to local New York regions. But Andy had a vision to transform the company through acquisitions (a lot of acquisitions) into a technical services firm offering systems engineering, facilities management and environmental management systems.
As part of this grand plan, the company purchased Neeco in 1990 for about $100 million and got heavily into the desktop computer reselling and services business. He figured as they were already wiring skeleton buildings, it would be the perfect opportunity to also outfit them with computer services. That was the plan, anyway.
That’s when Robert Crowell entered the picture. Anyone remember Bob? He left a bit more of an impression than Andy. Warning: non-sequitur coming. Bob walked tall, figuratively, and carried a big stick. I still remember in late 1991 after JWP’s Businessland acquisition, Bob arranging for a private jet to take us from New York to Erlanger, Ky., to see the state-of-the-art Businessland distribution facility. Bob was a Vietnam vet and tough as nails and, for a brief moment during the trip, I was under the impression he was going to make me parachute out. Yes, it’s hard to forget Bob.
Anyway, during the transition period it was part of Bob’s job to help communicate to the trade press and other media the grand vision of how Neeco and Businessland fit into the grand JWP all-in-one services strategy, and how JWP was now going to bring these newly acquired computer skills into its existing accounts — everything from electrical wiring to facilities management to environmental controls to mouse pads. That was the plan, anyway.
Well, as we all know, it never really worked out the way Andy and Bob imagined it. Mountains of debt and millions of dollars in losses put too much pressure on the organization. Computer reselling became too much of a commodity as Dell and CompUSA began to take share. A recession slowed commercial construction and JWP was never able to fully leverage its other businesses to increase its shiny, new computer operations. JWP sold its computer business and Andy resigned. John McKenna was left to mop up the mess, tried to start fresh and renamed the computer business Entex, but the die was already cast. I always admired John for the way he handled himself during this particularly difficult period.
But maybe, just maybe, Andy and Bob had it right.
Fast forward 20 years. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates — through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — unveiled that the California Institute of Technology was the winner of a challenge to create a more efficient and sanitary toilet. Caltech was awarded $100,000 for its idea of a solar-powered toilet that generates hydrogen and electricity.
Let’s see now: Gates built Microsoft on the backs of the computer resellers. To this day, managed services providers (MSPs) are the lifeblood of the software giant’s sales efforts. Maybe there will be an opportunity for MSPs to bundle value-added services around bathroom design and sanitation. Maybe, Andy and Bob were right all along.
Then again, maybe not.
Knock em alive!