Deliver What Your Customer Values

I am a picky eater; I tend to frequent restaurants with menus that have items and preparations that I like.  In addition, I prefer restaurants that are flexible, and I’ve walked out of more than one after hearing “Sorry, no substitutions.”   My wife, not so much.  She has a very brave palate and is always willing to experiment with the new and unusual.  So imagine our delight when we found a restaurant in the Stockbridge, MA area many years ago that had a menu that appealed to both of us. The restaurant was very successful and always crowded.  We appreciated the reasonable cost, the dependable quality of the food, and the reliable service.  The place was a home run for us and for the other residents and visitors to the Berkshires. A few years went by and for reasons that are unknown to me, the owner hired a new chef who promptly – and completely – changed the menu.  For some people this would be an adventure.  However, to my wife and me – and judging by the decline in customers – this was business suicide.  I know we are not returning when my wife tells me that she has trouble finding something to order.  Gone were our favorite dishes.  Gone were the selections that catered to the bland eater and the daring.  Worse, they instituted a “no substitutions” policy.  We kept checking the restaurant’s website hoping that the owner and chef would come to their senses and revise the menu.  No such luck. As you can probably guess, the restaurant closed within a few months of this change. In business, there are thousands of examples like this.   A successful business sells a product, then ostensibly to entice another customer base, creates a product that is not of value to the targeted new customer and worse, alienates the long time patrons.  Ultimately, the business fails. So, what is the lesson here?  As a business owner, you MUST understand three things about your offering:
  1. You MUST understand what your customers value, not what you value. Oftentimes, they are very different things.
  2. You MUST understand all aspects of your offering, not just the obvious. For example, the obvious offering of a restaurant is the food.  Patrons also value the service, flexibility, décor, parking, dress code, cleanliness, consistency, reputation and variety, to mention a few.
  3. You MUST understand that every customer will value something different from other customers. Joe will value the food, but Mary will value the ambiance. And they seldom value the same aspects that you value.
Failure to fully understand your customer’s value proposition and consistently deliver that value is a recipe for disaster.  Yes, it’s important to grow, to improve, and to innovate your product base to give people options and to attract new customers.  However, if you consistently deliver great value to your customers you will be blessed with many raving fans. If you would like to increase the value your company offers to your customers to accelerate your growth, my colleagues and I at ActionCOACH are ready and able to assist you.

Great Advice from Crain’s New York Business Hall of Fame Inductees

While reading the September 14, 2015 edition of Crain’s New York Business” I was energized by some of the advice given by almost all of the 2015 inductees to the Crain’s Hall of Fame.  Following are a few of the best quotes along with commentary relating the quotes to my philosophy of business. First up are a couple of quotes from Larry Fink, the founder of Blackrock, the world’s largest investment firm.  Blackrock has more than $4.7 trillion under management.  He said “I’m a student of the markets.  If you stop being a student, you will fail.”  This takes our often mentioned phrase “you’ve got to learn to earn” to a whole other level by stating the consequence of stopping your learning … failure.  He goes on to say “I tell my leaders – my leaders are going to be teachers – if you’re a teacher who stopped being a student, you can’t be a good teacher.”  I’ve always said the one of the best ways to learn a subject is to teach it. From Shelly Lazarus, former CEO and Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather we get several great pointers.  “You need to have a team that believes in you and people who believe in each other and people who can work together.  Without the people around you, you are never going to be successful.”  This speaks to the idea that true success in bound up with accomplishing a broader impactful mission, a mission that you can’t accomplish alone.  She goes on to say “It surprises me over and over how people don’t realize that you have to treat the people on your team respectfully; you have to let them share in the problem and the solution. You’re only going to be as good as the people who want to work with you.” (Emphasis added)  “Who want to work with you” … that’s the operative phrase.  Not easy, but essential to lasting success. Pamela Brier, current President and CEO of Maimonides Medical Center, said something simple but very, very profound “It takes more than medical care to make healthy people.”  This speaks to the point of my previous blog “What is Your Product or Service?” where I discuss the total definition of a product or service.  Later in her interview she highlights the concept of inclusive management “…includes the notion that people close to the work not only have a stake in making a place work better, they also know a lot.  Tell me that who mops the floor in a patient’s room doesn’t know a lot about what’s going on with that patient and the family.”  Finally, she says “There is nothing inherently politically incorrect about being a tough-minded manager who does what you have to do to give an institution the financial wherewithal to do good work.”  You must continually achieve your mission to have impact.  In order to do that long term, the financial foundation has to be strong. Emily Rafferty, the retired president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art talks about timing and personal being.  “Timing is everything, and if we make a mistake, often it is about not getting the timing right.  When you get it right, it lets us soar.  That’s what makes the difference, I think.  Our timing has to be right within ourselves and within our personal growth before it can work in the workplace or anywhere else.”  A prerequisite to success is preparing for success, BE + DO = HAVE.  Acquire the being of success in order to do what you need to do to achieve success to have success. One of the primary purposes of coaching, whether business coaching or other forms of coaching, is to increasing the clients being.  My colleagues at ActionCOACH and I can work with you to increase your being.

What is Your Product or Service?

As promised in my last Blog “Is Your Business Commodity or Value Based?” I would like to discuss the definition of your product, the total definition of your product, the real definition of your product.  First, a little background.  I have too often encountered business owners and professionals who stop at the obvious definition of their product, “I’m a pediatrician, I provide medical care to kids,” never either consciously or unconsciously going deeper.  And if the owner doesn’t fully understand what his or her company is delivering, what are the chances that their team consistently delivers the complete product?  That is why I consider understanding of the complete definition the product or service of a business one of the fundamentals of having an exceptional business. In my last Blog, I said “Once you have determined your clients, customers or patients (CCPs) definition of value, you must marry it to your product or service in order to have your UVP (Unique Value Proposition).”  Without a genuine UVP, you are doomed to playing the features leap frog game with your competitors.  So how do we marry our CCPs definition of value with our product or service? The answer is simple, but not easy.  You and your team must answer “Why should I be your customer?” from the customer’s point of view.  One way to accomplish this is to try this exercise that I use with my clients; make a list of 100 reasons someone who fits the profile of your ideal, not your only, customer should do business with you.  The easy part is putting the first five or six on the list.  After that it gets progressively more difficult.  I must be honest and tell you that only one client has gotten to 100.  After eliminating the duplicates, we got down to a list of more than 80 value elements, each of which were part of their Total Product Definition (TPD). Returning to the pediatrician, in addition to providing medical care to kids, her TPD includes such factors as; ease of parking, short wait times for appointments and in the waiting room, waiting room decor and activities, how friendly is the team, is the office child and parent friendly, to list just a few of the more obvious examples.  Note that the list should include both tangible and intangible items.  The tangible items, such as very short wait time, are easier to copy than intangible items such as having a friendly office atmosphere. Once you have determined your TPD, you must constantly communicate it both internally and to your CCPs.  That means you and your team must live it, breath it, understand it and consistently deliver the TPD to your market.  Your TPD is your competitive advantage, the deeper and more detailed it is, the harder it is for your competition to duplicate. My ActionCOACH colleagues and I will be happy to assist you in developing your Total Product Definition.