My 'Two-by-Four' Of Business Cards

Among other things, the business of business cards has changed a lot over the past 15 years that I have been in start-ups. And each new company needed its own business cards.

I just got a new supply of business cards, and the box that I found on my desk yesterday morning looks like a two-foot long "two-by-four," not the small six-inch "brick" of business cards that I received a dozen or more times in the past. In the old days, the cards came from a local print shop, contained 200-250 cards, and cost $200+ for the batch. Today, we order cards online from some company across the country, they show up in three days time in super-sized boxes containing 1,000 cards each, and we pay $80 for the entire batch. Finally, the cards are of the best quality and on the best stock I have ever used.



Largely as a result of Internet-driven disruption, the business cards that we use today at Simulmedia cost 1/10 as much as the cards that we used at Real Media in 1995, and they are better cards. As I look across the entire cost structure of operating Simulmedia, I find a number of similar examples of the Internet-driven economy driving down the cost of running a business. Here are a few:

Telephones. We don't have any landline telephones in our company. We all use mobile phones for most of our calls, laptop speaker phones and Skype for our conference calls, and maintain a single voice-over-IP phone, as much for vanity as anything. Our telephony costs are less than 5% per person compared those at my last company, TACODA.

Personal laptops, smartphones.  As we all know, the power and versatility of personal computing hardware has increased dramatically over the past 15 years, while the costs have plummeted. Plus, the introduction of robust smartphones has dramatically increased the productivity per employee, even when they are not tethered to their laptops. We now accomplish a lot more per person at a lower cost per person, and operate with fewer people.

Productivity tools. We use Gmail for our corporate mail and calendar and Skype, Google and Google Talk for our internal conferencing and messaging. No more Outlook for us. No more WebEx. We use for sales management and customer account management. We use Yammer for shared discovery. We do continue to use Microsoft Office, but probably won't in two or three years. Our desktop software costs per person are probably 15% of what I paid ten years ago.

Data storage. Each of my three companies has been very data-intensive, processing terabytes and terabytes of data. At Simulmedia, we use Dell servers running Linux, Postgres and Hadoop, and spend low-single-digital millions for infrastructure that at TACODA and Real Media cost us many tens of millions to run IBM, Solaris and Oracle.

This list could go on and on. The Internet and related innovations have had a dramatic impact on the economics of starting and operating businesses, particularly small businesses -- and not infrequently, in some very counterintuitive ways, like printing  business cards.  What do you think? Are you seeing the same kinds of costs at your businesses?

7 comments about "My 'Two-by-Four' Of Business Cards".
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  1. Lief Larson from Workface Inc., May 27, 2010 at 11:09 a.m.

    Dave, I offer up for your consideration We're created a rich, interactive business card for the web which you may find supplements the spirit and etiquette of your printed business card. They are capable of being discoverable and shared broadly across the web (including Facebook et al).


  2. Rich Benci from Benci Consulting, LLC, May 27, 2010 at 11:22 a.m.

    Remember when "bandwidth" was a major line item cost?

  3. David Thurman from Aussie Rescue of Illinois, May 27, 2010 at 11:31 a.m.

    I sure remember what a few T-1's would cost me, and the long term contract required to save 50-100 a month, let alone the other telco fees. That was only 8 years ago. Costs are much lower, and your right, cost per is way down, and the footprint of an organization is expanding. The days of everyone in one hive is slowly changing.

  4. Gary Klein from GKlein&associates, May 27, 2010 at noon

    Dave - Having broken away from a large firm to start-up a more entreprenurial, fast moving and creative executive search firm, we live by the concepts and available opportunities you speak to. Besides being more operationally and cost's refreshing.

  5. Drew Neisser from Renegade, May 27, 2010 at 12:40 p.m.

    Great stuff Dave. Can you provide the name of the printer you used for the cards?

  6. David Hawthorne from HCI LearningWorks, May 27, 2010 at 12:49 p.m.

    Dave - Of course, most of us have noticed such digital tailings across our many businesses. But, I wonder how it translates into customer value?

    While benefits to users are plentiful (I have good, cheap cards too) my client want those savings to be reflected in the price he pays. The argument that I used those saving to "produce" more "value," doesn't seem to fly with a lot of clients. The value seems to flit off on dulcimer wings to accumulate around 'the next big stock movement.' It lays its eggs in the pocket lining of some pinstripe suit to emerge as a Jaguar in some investment banker's driveway.

    If we are small businesses, we are doing most of the customer service for most of our vendors. Hours are spent "talking" to a forest of phone trees at our banks, our travel agents, our express mail services, and almost all government services. And, for the most part the only human voice involved is our own. We fill in endless forms, that they use to tell us that we should join their help forum, and search for our solution. Our questions are stored, sorted, linked, and passed along. They are generally, not answered. We are perpetually where we were.

    If you are going on vacation, you are a very lucky man. Have you added a lot of staff at your company lately to do anything... or have you been trimming staff, now that you have reaped the benefits of digital productivity? Is there anything left that hasn't been outsourced? Are they there to help a client? Or will the client's email just die an ignominious and anonymous death in your email app?

    This 'digital' economy has become insubstantial. It floats like dust and insect wings upon torrents of data rushing hither and yon. Yes, you are living in a wonderland.

  7. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, May 27, 2010 at 5:56 p.m.

    Dave, if you could just run the government.

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