How to Find a Leading Digital Billboards Supplier

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What Makes a "Leader" in Digital Billboards Manufacturing?

Too Many Digital Billboards Leaders

Recently I find a lot of new companies claiming on their websites to be "Leader in Digital Billboards Manufacturing, or to be a "Leading Digital Billboards Supplier".

I don't exaclty know how to define a leading company, but I know that they are not: the leader is only one, while here too many companies are claiming the title. And most of them didn't even existed a year ago.

So I started to ask myself, what really makes a company a leader in its own field? I tried to learn more about the different definitions of "leading Company" and "Leadership" and this is what I found:

Forbes Magazine

"The World's Leading Companies, is the new comprehensive ranking of the world's biggest companies, measured by a composite of sales, profits, assets and market value."

So for Forbes Magazine, a leading company in any market is a company which has the highest averaged performance when considering 4 precise indicators: (1) Sales, (2) Profits, (3) Assets and (4) Market Value

According to this definition, the World Leader in LED billboards Manufacturing is Daktronics. Infact, since 2001, independent market research from iSuppli Corp has consistently ranked Daktronics number one with approximately 30 percent of the entire worldwide LED video display market share.

Wikipedia

"Leadership has been written as the process of social influence in which one person (or Company?) can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task."

This description is more vague and it doesn't list any precise indicator or measure. So in my interpretation of the Wikipedia definition, a leading company in a market is the one which provide most tools and support to its Customers to accomplish their goals.

According to this interpretation, the World Leader in Digital Billboards Manufacturing is Barco. Infact, since 1934 (!) Barco designs and develops visualization solutions for a variety of selected professional markets: medical imaging, media & entertainment, infrastructure & utilities, traffic & transportation, defense & security, education & training and corporate AV.

Business Week Magazine

"Here's our list of the top 100 global technology outfits -- on a price-performance basis"

For Business Week Magazine, a leading company is the one that is either (1) The Biggest, in terms of sales, (2) The Fastest Growing, in terms of revenue growth or (3) The Most Profitable, in terms of return on equity

According to this definition, a company can be a "leader" from 3 different points of view. But again the fist indicator is Sales/Revenue.

In this case, Barco seems to be the leader with revenue with EUR 638 million (in 2009). But we must consider that Barco has a widest range of visualization products, while Daktronics even if smaller (with revenues of EUR 461 million in 2009) is focused on LED video walls only. So I would say Daktronics is the winner again here.

Leading What?

So far, whichever definition you look at, there is no one that fits those new companies:

  • Sales: They are not the biggest in sales, since Barco and Daktronics lead the way and the battle for the "leader" title is basically a private matter between them
  • Profits: These new companies often claim to have competitive prices, so I can safely assume that they are not leader in terms of profits either
  • Growth: Since the number of these companies reselling Digital Billboards is doubled in the past 2 years, they also can not be the leader in terms of revenue growth: it would be impossibile with so many other competing companies flooding the market and offering the exact same product, features and services
  • Assets: They can not be leaders in terms of assets since they are Partnerships and not Corporations, therefore without deposited capital or assets by definition. All liabilities are covered with the personal assets of the partners. Well, if they have any.
  • Support: I also dare to say that they can not be the company which provide most tools and support to their Customers, as Wikipedia's definition would request. Based on the time they have been on the market (12-24 months) I doubt they developed more tools than Barco did in 76 years

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

"A first or principal performer of a group"

According to this definition, a leader is always defined in comparison to a group. I personally find this is a good definition because it puts things in perspective.

Maybe you are not a World Leader, but you still can be a leader if you take a group small enough. For example you could be a leader among your friends.

This is probably the same definition that the new self-proclaimed leaders in LED screens are using... they just failed to mention the group they belong to. Here's how a more accurate version should look like:

  • Geographic Area Leadership
    "We're leaders in Revenues, among companies in our neighborhood"
  • Age Group Leadership
    "We're leaders in Support, among start-ups with less than 12 months
  • Company Size Leadership
    "We're leaders in Assets, among businesses with 3 employees

What to Do Next Time

Next time you find a company claiming to be the "leader in digital billboards" (or in any other field for that matter), just ask them: "Leader according to what?"

  • In terms of Sales / Revenue?
  • Profits?
  • Growth Rate?
  • Assets?
  • Support?

If They Don't Know

If they don't know what to answer right away, stop wasting your time. When people don't know why they claim to be "leader" it can not be a good sign.

If They Do Know

Instead, if they do know what to answer, there are two options:

  • you are talking to Barco or Daktronics
  • they read this article too, and they prepared a canned reply

If you want to discover how to recognize a real leading company from a hoax, don't miss the next post.

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