There is a little bistro, Café Vanille, about 100 yards from my Boston house where you'll find me a couple of days every couple of weeks. The coffee is good to great (and 100 times better than my own), the croissants pure delight.
And they open at 6 a.m. No small thing for an early riser.
But that's not the point of this post. Rather, it is to say a few words about a woman I love but whose name I don't know. And the tragedy of her leaving me for good.
Of course I ought to know her name—but I don't. (Nor she mine.)
But here's what I do know:
(1) She comes (came) in about 4 a.m. to get things ready.
(2) She appears to be very efficient at what she does-did.
(3) She lights up my life, rain or snow or sleet or hail, gloomy or sunny, at 90°F and -5°F.
She is definitely not "chirpy." (I'd guess she's 45, an age by which chirpiness is highly suspect, by my lights.) It's just that we always exchange a few pleasant sentences, she seems to enjoy what she does, and she brings along a good (good, not great) attitude day in and day out.
I emphasize "good but not great" because, at 6 a.m., I'm not looking for "Let's go out and kick ass, guys." I'm looking for solid and engaged and sociable-friendly and gettin' the job done with everyday pleasure.
Her solidness and spirit were just the tonic I needed—as much as the caffeine. And she provided it again and again and then again.
She's gone now, and I miss her terribly (this was my first morning without her), and I didn't know her name. That's not all bad either, in a funny way. It's not that "Mary's gone—alas." It's that this person whose name I don't know who in a solid-quiet way launched my days on a sound (not giddy) basis is not in situ anymore.
As always (alas!), I also have an ulterior motive in telling this story. It is to remind us that business ("life," too, of course) rises or falls on the nature and character of what the great SAS boss, Jan Carlzon, called "moments of truth"—those fleeting moments of true human contact that define our enterprise's excellence—or lack thereof.
Thus our goal, perhaps primary goal, in every flavor of business of every size, is to "MTMOT"—Manage To Moments Of Truth. Every decision about hiring, firing, supervision, training, systems development is to be designed for and brought immediately and directly to bear on the "production" of Moments Of Truth. My beloved friend from Café Vanille is poster woman for the possible impact if one gets it "right."
So that's my professional message. As to my personal one, what higher tribute to any person than to say that day in and day out they brought a little sunlight into others' (mine—one other!) lives via the most fleeting moments of contact. I repeat, not cheeriness, chirpiness, or blinding light—just a dab of predictable friendly interaction that invariably pushed the (my) day in the right direction—or at least kept it from heading down the wrong road.
Back to business. Look for, desperately pursue, settle for nothing less than such folks—they are surely not a dime, or even a dollar, a dozen. But they are there and if you will take the trouble to seek them out and then show your occasional appreciation for what they do, Excellence, I predict, will be within your grasp. (And quite possibly a bushel of profit to go along with it.)
When I think of the sorts of interactions I describe above, two quotes come to mind:
"Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart."—Henry Clay, American statesman
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle."—Philo of Alexandria
If we could truly appreciate those two sentiments, and incorporate them into, as businesspeople, our enterprises' DNA, I think it would make a world of difference—and be the ultimate "blue ocean."
In this 3 minute video (captured by our friends at Skillsoft), Tom makes the case for hiring for passion over experience. He says, as he and Bob Waterman argued in In Search of Excellence, the numbers are the soft stuff and the truly hard stuff is "passion, energy, values, character, enthusiasm."
One of our commenters, Chetan Dhruve, suggested that we include the transcripts from the videos. We've added them to the previous video posts as well. Here's the transcript for this video in PDF form: Passion!
We got an email from a friend of a friend. Charles Green, coauthor with Cool Friend David Maister of The Trusted Advisor, wrote to us to ask if we could put this before our audience: Your Trust Quotient. Go to this link to take the assessment. I like it, though others at tp.com have reservations. Everybody says the same thing: It is very subjective. But, I found that its results described me fairly accurately. So, I'm putting it out to you. Try it out. Leave some comments for Charles. If you are not sold on his online integrity assessment, tell him how to make it better. Also, let him know, did it get you right as I found it did me? And, most importantly, do you see any uses for it in your work?
Tom is speaking in Cancun at a joint customer & distributor conference for Grupo Modelo. They are the 8th largest brewer in the world and exclusively brew and distribute premium beers such as Corona, Pacifico, and Modelo. They have a gigantic market share in Mexico, are also prominent in the U.S.—and they're growing all over the world. (All their breweries are in Mexico.) You can learn more, of course, at Wikipedia.
Recall that last week I was the featured speaker, along with the visionary and inspiring Mayor of Seoul, at Korea Design Forum 2008. For that event, I created a list of "random" thoughts on design—that is, I excavated my brain to extract the main design ideas I've been shouting about off and on for the last 15 years. After the fact, on the long trip home, I began to mess with the list. The product (of the moment) is presented below:
**"Great things" are more valuable than not-so-great things. (The "duh" "epiphany.")
**"It" [Design] is everything-ubiquitous.
**Everybody's doin' it.
**If "everybody's doin' it," then how do we do it differently-sustainably?
**Everybody will do "it" differently. (But "design zealots" in Japan are about the same as design zealots in Italy.)
**"It" works only if it is "a way of life." (Apple. BMW. Cirque du Soleil. Starbucks.)
**Consider my term-of-choice: "Design-mindfulness." (Design-mindfulness is a universally shared attitude.)
**"It" does not work if it is a "program"!
**"It" is not about "cut and paste," not about sticky-noting a rock star designer—this may, in fact, be counterproductive.
**Designers must become a cherished "part of the family," not "those weird creatives."
**Designers as "dreamers with deadlines"—creative & loose ... with hardass deliverables.
**It's already faddish. (To say it is not to do it.)
**Don't try to "engineer it"—there is an essential "spontaneity" dimension. (Southwest Airlines.)
**"It" starts with the vendors and the vendors' vendors—and especially includes packaging and delivery folks. (And parking lot attendants. Think Disney and the gum-free Orlando airport.)
**In the long run, the "Mittelstand" will make the difference! (National-regional design prowess is powered and sustained by middle-sized companies headed by fanatics.)
**"Design hegemony" applies to the 3-person accounting shop.
**Acquiring design firms is (very) tricky; "they" don't readily fit into ordinary bureaucracies.
**There are no "exempts"—"it" applies as much, albeit in a different way, in purchasing as in product development.
**IT IS NOT ABOUT "MARKETING"! (Though marketing is a piece of it—like everything else.)
**The entire "supply chain" must be on board.
**As always, "MBWA" [Managing By Wandering Around] rules—embedding something new in a culture is a "walkabout" affair.
**"It" is about the way every individual conducts himself or herself. (E.g., the hotel housekeeper, restaurant busboy.)
**We [most of us] live in a "service economy." Design achievement, design dogmatism, applies as much to service "products" as to goods-lumpy objects.
**Design applies as much to a "PSF" [Professional Service Firm] as to a bank or car wash. (From dress code to calling card to flowers in reception to the look & feel of Client reports—to religiously capitalizing the "C" in Client whenever the word is printed to referring to you & the Client as "We.")
**Aesthetics and usability are equally important—with perhaps a slight edge to usability. ("'It won a prize' is the ultimate criticism."—Don Norman. The burning question: "Is the building livable?" Not, "Gosh, it's pretty-in-plan.")
**There is a "bet the farm" element at play—Dubai, Apple, China's Olympics.
**Great design does no less than "change the way we experience the world."
**Design is about "love" and "hate," not "like" and "dislike"—and hence the key to emotional bonding, internally as well as externally.
**When it comes to shaping behavior, there are few tools comparable to interior design and office arrangement—e.g., putting marketing and new product development next door to one another.
**There must be a far higher than normal dose of autonomy-accountability—love of the odd and oddball throughout the enterprise—in the end "it" is about perpetually renewing "value-added through creativity-freshness-spontaneity."
**Since we are dealing with artistic expression and open-endedness, a restless ethos of "trying a lot of stuff, fast" and then "trying again, fast" is of paramount importance.
**"It" must show up in the schools by age 5.
**"It" becomes the chief organizing principle for education.
**When it comes to aesthetics, you get most of "it" from the genes you were dealt. (You can "train in" appreciation, but not artistic flair.)
**As a result of the inescapable need to start the reconstruction process that will underlie a self-regenerating "soft economy" by reinventing-revolutionizing our schools, the transition to a "new [soft] economy" will likely be about 25 years.
**The cataclysmic shift described above—autonomy, creativity, the arts front and center—demands a "Jefferson" (powerful artist-visionary-politician) as national-regional-urban leader.
**Beware of engineers! (Said with affection—I am one.) They (we!) are reductionists—design is about wholes.
**Beware of MBAs (Said with no affection, even though I am one.) Analysis is imperative—but also reductionist. In "real life," emotion rules—but not at the B-schools!
**The education bit is less about aesthetics and more about encouraging individualism—to take a risk on design, you must have a burning desire (to the point of willingness to suffer) to do things differently. (Schools—ours, yours, everyone's—are brilliant at suppressing creativity and "excessive" shows of passion.)
**Capturing "best practice" only goes so far.
**"Six Sigma" can be a deadly enemy. (Tighten down too hard—bye bye creativity-spontaneity.)
**In "design world": Gender differences are ... enormous.
**Women buy most stuff, hence women must design most stuff. (And be very amply represented in management ranks—for reasons of profit, not social justice.)
**Think: "Success through design." Think: "Women!!"
**If you are interested in selling to Europe and the U.S. and Japan (etc.), then you must explicitly (!!!) focus on the over-50 market. (For example, think "7/13"—Americans buy 13 cars in a lifetime on average, 7 when they are 50 or older.)
**If you are serious, the Chief Design Officer [and/or Chief Experience Officer or, per Kevin Roberts, Chief Lovemark Officer] must sit at the same level as the CFO. So, too, the Chief People Officer!
**"It" must be on every (literally) agenda; in project reviews of every type "it" must hold its own with, say, the budget discussion. (Every = every.)
**You'll never be able to explain "it" to the analysts in so many words—hence it will always be to some extent an act of faith.
**Steve Jobs is god. Alas, Steve Jobs is too abnormal to learn from. (Apple is a great example of design primacy, but SJ is "10-sigma man.")
**Design competitions at all levels of society-business must be very big deals.
**Community—small as well as large—investment in the arts (festivals, museums, etc.) is imperative.
**Buy art. (All businesses of all sizes.)
**In the public sector, "it" starts at the airport for foreign visitors especially—an experience that includes signage, traffic management, cop courtesy, air quality, etc.
**You can do a lot for 2 cents! (Think Singapore—details to follow.)
**And don't ignore the subway map. (Think London.)
**Or the public toilets. (Think Paris.)
**Be merciless about urban trash—spend yourself poor if necessary on the removal thereof. The political leadership must be directly involved.
**Good design transforms healthcare facilities (especially hospitals)—and abets healing.
**Good design in eldercare facilities extends life and enhances quality of life—critical as the elder population soars.
**Small things are often (usually?) more important than big things.
**"Design Is Free" is closer to the mark than you would think.
**Process design excellence is a matchless tool—emphasizing aesthetics (!) as much as practicality.
**Throwing money at problems is almost always a dumb thing to do—Design Excellence included.
**Training in "service excellence" is often a better "design investment" than capital spending.
**This ain't limited to global enterprises.
**The overall quality and effectiveness of SMEs contributes more to the GDP and tenor-character of a nation-region than that of big ("famous") firms.
**Gandhi and Mandela and Churchill and JFK and Reagan and Thatcher and Sarkozy and Franklin and Washington set the tone to an incredible degree—their "personal style" was their "brand." ("It" starts with personal style of the tip-top leadership team. Sorry to be politically insensitive, but who would give a hoot about Tibet if it weren't for the look and style of the Dalai Lama?) Boss at any level: You're either on the "it" boat—or not.
Another video from Skillsoft makes its appearance on our site today. We frequently get asked for Tom's definition of leadership, and, in this video, he addresses the topic for nearly four minutes. The essence can be found in this quote from Robert Altman's lifetime achievement Oscar acceptance speech: "The director allows an actor to become more than they've ever dreamed of being."
Tom is keynoting (for three hours) the Korea Design Forum 2008 in Seoul. He tells us that Korea is making a concerted push, as a nation, to become a "Worldclass Design Hub," following the sort of value-added strategy that Tom has participated in before, in places such as New Zealand and Taiwan. Check out the first ten slides. Together, they amount to a new Design Manifesto, drafted (according to Tom) between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. (?!) Korean time.
... about the website: Many of you have noticed glitches over the last several days. We're undergoing a server migration, and parts of the website have been out of commission. As we become aware of them, we get them fixed, so please keep the comments coming. Though we are navigating through our site to find problems, our first source of knowledge about them is usually you, our readers. We appreciate your help! And, be forewarned, soon the server's service will be interrupted again, though our host can't predict when, so please be patient with us in the next couple of weeks.
Another problem that's been noted is that comments are s-l-o-o-o-o-w to post. We're getting ready to delete old comments to reduce the immense size of our files, which have to be rebuilt every time a comment is posted. Never fear, though, we copied and saved all the past discussion. Every word posted here is important to us, and we have our entire blog archive, comments included, reproduced offline.
I spoke yesterday to the ICSC, the International Council of Shopping Centers. Between energy prices, the more-or-less recession, and turbulence in the financial markets ... things could be better. Nonetheless, tens of thousands made the trek to Las Vegas, where the summer weather arrived a bit early—high was 107°F yesterday. (News bulletin: that's hot.)
First, an update on the problems several of you have reported with the videos. We had tried loading them onto our server and embedding them onto the front page. That didn't work. Now, we're moving them to Vimeo. This change will make the front page open much more quickly, since the videos won't load every time. We hope this will be a great improvement. Let us know! Thanks.
Second, politics is the subject of the latest Skillsoft video (1 minute 44 seconds). In this piece, Tom gives his opinion of politics on the job. That is, politics is part of every task, and if you don't want to "play politics," you really won't get much done. If you want to succeed at implementation, then you'd better want to do politics, too.
Fact is, it's the best book I've read in years. It is a short fictional account of the lives and personal and moral trials of a handful of people during the civil war in the Balkans.
I, like 99%+ of you, am/is a spoiled brat—I (you?) cannot imagine what it means to have life, every assumption associated therewith, turned upside down and inside out.
How would I react? No idea!
If you don't buy my "biz book" label, read it anyway.
(*Also on my list of fiction that applies to biz life is another recent read, The Dream Life of Sukhanov by Olga Grushin, 2005, an amazing tale of bureaucracy and moral trials. Together, this pair tops my reading list going back a long, long time.)
My short take: A couple, at most, waaaay out of the blue events ("black swans"), beyond the grasp of planning or direct preparation, will define your professional career. (Think Ben Bernanke and the sub-prime crisis, or more specifically Bernanke and Bear Stearns. Or Mayor Giuliani and 9/11. Or the 1962 Cuban missile crisis—I'm re-reading Graham Allison's classic Essence of Decision, said re-reading triggered by The Black Swan. Or the Latin American debt crisis-default; collectively, our big banks lost more money in 1982 than they had made in the prior 200 years.)
I am mesmerized by Black Swans. We must live day to day, year to year, gettin' on with getting' on. Surprises aplenty are not so few and not so far between—and we've mostly learned how to cope and at least muddle through.
In fact, we can't live life, personal or professional, awaiting a Black Swan to alight on our pond. Still, one may-probably will do so—and our response-behavior will, as Mr Taleb claims, determine our life's course.
Well if we can't plan for it, and we can't let it distract us 24 hours a day every day, what can we do?
Beats me, is mostly my response.
But I have fallen deeply in love with a word that may be of use ... Resilience.
To deal with the absurdly unlikely, we can find resilient people and shape our organization to be more or less able to respond to a knockout blow—right out of left field.
Below (and in a Special Presentation attached), you'll find some musings (exactly the right word) on the idea of resilience. These are raw, "key words" really, meant to do no more than get you moving on this topic—which I heartily suggest.
Possible Attributes of Resilient People:
Inner calm (Buddhist-like?); think Tiger Woods
High self-knowledge ("comfortable in own skin")
Breadth of experience—drove a cab, worked construction, ran Alaska tours ... not just a variety of assignments in a traditional career progression.
Sense of, "Ah, my moment" (e.g., Giuliani)
Lover of modestly controlled chaos (bored amidst calm—e.g., FDR)
Reach out effortlessly to a wide variety of people (in general and on the fly)
Known for integrity, in the sense of "straight shooter"
Hires resilient people per se in key positions! (All senior leadership roles?)
Sense of humor
Empathy ("I feel your pain")
"Cruelty" (Must make tough decisions instantaneously, without looking back; not "confident," but overwhelming sense of urgency to press ahead)
Decisive, but not rigid
Strong individual, equally strong team player
Understands the chain of command—and evades it as necessary
Comfortable being challenged by thinkers, but a strong "doer" bias overall
A person of Hope (religious or "religious-like"?)
Not necessarily: ex-college quarterback with a history of comebacks (Why: All within the rules, within the context of that which has been practiced)
Better(??): Ocean sailboat racer; ER doc; public health doc; astronaut; combat experience; hostage negotiator; survived in hopeless circumstances through guile and grit; seeks "independent duty"
Tests: Have the lights "unexpectedly" go out during an employment interview, followed by fire alarm, etc; focus on resilience per se in reference checks
Possible Attributes of Resilient Organizations:
Hire resilient folks at all levels and in all functions—explicit about so doing
Promote resilience—explicit about so doing
Decentralization!!!!!!!!! (organization structure, physical configuration, systems)
Shadow "emergency organization"—ready to roll
Very serious "War gaming" (better than nothing—unless it leads to false confidence)
Culture of (1) self-starting, (2) caring and respect, (3) Execution is Priority #1, (4) Accountability-responsibility—100% of folks
Culture of Resilience (as de jure explicit "plank" of organizational values set)
Talk it up!! (but in terms of "growth opportunity"—not fear mongering)
MBWA—e.g., great, intimate communication all the time about everything
Transparency (all in the know, none in the dark)
Excellent equipment (But ...)
Training >>>>> Equipment
Ability to get by for (quite) a while without IS-IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Test whole org in uncomfortable situations
Promote an unusually high share of mavericks
Diversity per se!!!!!!!!!!!
In this video (just under four minutes long), filmed by Skillsoft, Tom exhorts that corporate social responsibility shouldn't just be an empty branding tactic. After all, organizations are groups of humans and he believes that CSR is about being a member of the community.
Steve Yastrow is back for his second appearance as a Cool Friend. You know him from our blog and for his first book, Brand Harmony. His new book is We: The Ideal Customer Relationship. Steve says that if your customer thinks of the relationship you share as a "we" relationship, rather than as "us and them," you move beyond experience to engagement. He's the founder of Yastrow & Company, a Chicago-based consulting firm, where he and his team challenge organizations to take a fresh look at themselves from the inside out. Find out more by reading his Cool Friends interview here.
Here's another in our Skillsoft video series. This time Tom describes discovering Cool Friend Matthew Kelly's book, The Dream Manager. Watch the video (length is 3 minutes, 16 seconds) for Tom's take on engagement and what a leader's role is when it comes to the dreams of their talent.
We consider our readership our community. And we appreciate the participation of a great number of community members in the comments area of the blog. There have been some marvelous debates on complex issues. We understand all too clearly how annoying it can be when you try to add your voice by posting a comment and, once you click Post, it seems as though the computer didn't register your action. So you click on it again, and again, and finally you see that your comment has been posted three times. We've been trying to solve this issue for some time now, but with no success. So, apologies for the long wait after you click Post to submit your comment. But please know that even if it takes a long moment, your comment has been submitted. This frustrates no one more than it frustrates Tom. Thank you for your patience!
Spent a couple of days in D.C. last week. Saturday (before Mother's Day) bright and sunny. Long walk.
Georgetown, C & O (Chesapeake & Ohio) Canal. America's Internet 2.0. (Arguably the Pony Express was Internet 1.0. Or was it pamphleteering surrounding the buildup to the Revolutionary War?)
Far end of Memorial Bridge, Seabee Memorial. "Seabee" from "CB"—U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion. Navy combat contractors, born in World War II, first notable service at Guadalcanal. Sailors recruited directly from the Union halls. Motto: "Can do." (John Wayne made a Seabee movie. Sailors in "South Pacific," subject of a current Broadway revival, were Seabees.) (Yrs truly served with them in Vietnam—I stop by, pat the marble, salute, and say hello to old friends.)
Vietnam Memorial. Over 58,000 names, listed in chron order—from 1958 to 1975. Many visitors last Saturday. Mothers of "the names"?
Waterproof book with all the names, locations. Youngster looking for name, granddad?—typical rubbing.
Recent tribute. Dozens each day. In fact, one soldier's family left his Harley at The Wall. (Gov't keeps all stuff—not available for public viewing.)
25E, 62. East 25 [each wall section is numbered], line 62 [up to you to count]. LT David C. Hall, USA. College roommate.
How many of ours died in Vietnam? One answer is: 112 "Halls" alone.
Any of you who read this blog know how much Tom loves books, and you know how much all of us who work for Tom love books, and we think you probably love books as much as we do. Therefore, we think you should go immediately to this YouTube link and watch the best post ever. Do not be put off by the 7-minute length of the video; get through the intro and you'll be entranced. We guarantee it.
[Tom says that if you are not in love with this video, please let us know, and we'll take you off all our mailing lists.]
We're excited to announce that Tom's Success Tips are now available at DailyLit.com. What's DailyLit? It's a service that delivers short digital installments of books via email or RSS. The founders write: "We created DailyLit because we spent hours each day on email but could not find the time to read a book. Now the books come to us by email. Problem solved." I realize that for some of you this may be anathema, but I think it's fun and useful. In addition to (re)reading Success Tips, I'm currently receiving a daily dose of Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus. Each morning I get a short burst (800-1000 words?) of the book that I read with my other email. Each installment of this book is a lesson in how to create radical change in the world.
As for Success Tips, it's free, as are many other books at the site. We hope to feature Pursuit of WOW!, Brand You50, and other Tom books in the near future. Access to those titles will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of US $5. Still a bargain!
We all hope you enjoy reading Tom in this new format. If you don't, comments are open. (Of course we wouldn't mind hearing from people who love the service, either.)
Customers Second, Customers First.
Customers in the "Marketplace."
"Customers" in the Firm Who Serve the Customers in the Marketplace.
[Some of you said, in Comments, that I've gone too far in this "customer 2nd" stuff. Probably true—but I still contend that there is a fundamental correctness, which addresses a characteristic imbalance, to Matthew Kelly's, "Our employees are our first customers, and our most important customers"—from The Dream Manager. Let me get personal about "all this ..."]
I luuuuuuuv great customer-"end user" feedback! I am competitive to a fault in that regard and a slave to the market—"after all these years." At a higher level of marketplace engagement, I love a hearty business backlog, especially if it's based on repeat business—and I carefully measure it against year-to-date 2007, 2006, 2005, etc. And I love a fee-per-event yield that exceeds last year, the year before, etc.
And so on.
And yet ...
And yet ... in an important way ... I indeed put the customer-"end user" second or third or ...
Second or third to what?
Simple & crystal clear (to me): To give a high-impact, well-regarded, occasionally life-changing speech "to customers" I first & second & third have to focus all my restless energy on "satisfying" ... myself. I must be ... physically & emotionally & intellectually agitated & excited & desperate beyond measure ... to communicate & connect & compel & grab by the collar & say my piece about a small number of things, often contentious and not "crowd-pleasers," that, at the moment, are literally a matter of personal ... life and death.
I crave great "customer feedback"—but in no way, shape, or form am I trying to "satisfy my customer." I am, I repeat, trying instead to satisfy me, my own deep neediness to reach out and grab my customer & connect with my customer over ideas that consume & devour me.
Hence ... my "Job One" is purely selfish & internally focused, to be completely captivated by the subject matter at hand. That is, to repeat in slightly different words, Job One is ... self-motivation.
Warren Bennis, my primo mentor, in On Becoming a Leader, said, "No leader sets out to be a leader per se, but rather to express him- or herself freely and fully. That is, leaders have no interest in proving themselves, but an abiding interest in expressing themselves."
So I'm back to my somewhat disingenuous message: To put the marketplace customer first, I must put the person serving the customer "more first." (Myself, in the case of a speech, the frontline employee for Rosenbluth International's Hal Rosenbluth in days past or for RE/MAX'sDave Liniger—see yesterday's "customer second" PowerPoint re Hal, Dave, et al.)
Job One: Cherish and Excite the People Who Have the Opportunity to Cherish and Excite the Customer and Induce Her-Him to Recommend Us to Others Which Is the Premier Path to Growth and Profitability. Forever and Ever, Amen.
Axiom: Only excited people can excite customers over the long haul—i.e., again & again.
Corollary: To cause our colleagues to be excited we must put—and keep—the maintenance of their well-being and their opportunity structure at the top of our agenda.
On April 30th, Tom spoke from a studio in Watertown, MA for the Skillsoft Leadership Development Channel that was broadcast out to about 10,000 people. At the end of the hour-long talk, Tom was asked to record some short videos on various topics. And then Tom added a couple of his own. The folks at Skillsoft have been kind enough to let us use these videos at tompeters.com. The first one is called Organizational Excellence (length is just under 3 minutes) in which Tom says that "fundamentally the brand is the talent." And that the best way to serve your external customer is to be sure to serve your internal customers, your employees, first. By happenstance, this topic coincides with the slide set Tom published today called "The Customer Comes Second."
This is the first of eight videos ranging from "Organizational Excellence" to "Yes, You are in Sales!" We'll be posting these sporadically over the next week or two, whenever we think you may need a jolt of inspiration. Hope you enjoy them.
Cathy has been bugging me for spring-on-the-farm pictures from VT. Herewith are four:
(1) the chickens are out and about
(2) the tulips are finally blooming
(3) new porch furniture—it's warm enough to move outdoors
(4) construction of Susan's new studio
Happy Spring! (I know it's almost over for some of you—we're just gearing up. And, of course, for others of you south of the Equator, winter is just around the corner in our "little" "global village.")
We haven't said anything about comment protocol in a while, and we thought it was a good idea to mention our "discussion area" again. Most important: Tom reads all the comments. He often calls Erik or me to talk about the tenor of the responses his blog posts are getting. Keep that in mind when posting in our comments. We appreciate your participation, and we invite those who haven't yet added to the discussion to please join in!
Some of you send emails to Tom, using tom (at) tompeters.com or info (at) tompeters.com in an attempt to get a response directly from him. Tom sees the emails, but I answer them, so that we can be sure that every message gets a reply. Though Tom occasionally answers the email, if you'd like a direct response from him, you are much more likely to get his input by commenting on a blog post (brilliantly!). And, as we've said before, please try to keep your exposition in our comments section short and to the point, remembering that we follow the "living room" rule—don't behave in any way you would not behave towards guests in your home.
In its May 12th cover story, "The Mac in the Grey Flannel Suit," BusinessWeek confirmed that Apple has finally made some promising inroads into the corporate market in the last year. As a long-time Macophile and anti-PC-er I'm thrilled to see more company Macs. According to research data from the Yankee Group, 87% of surveyed companies now have some Apple computers in their offices, compared to 48% two years ago—due in large part to the iPhone's success in gaining new Apple customers. Meanwhile, Microsoft's problems with Vista, the latest version of its Windows operating system, have further weakened the MS hegemony and encouraged corporate users to upgrade to Mac.
But as the article points out, Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who wouldn't even comment on the BusinessWeek story, may not be that anxious to get the grey flannel business. Why? Because a corporate sales strategy would require both an expensive sales & support staff and a willingness to modify Mac product designs to suit the conflicting demands of corporate buyers. Apple is doing just fine without these hassles, making high margins catering to students and artists who will pay extra for the Apple cool. Budget-conscious CIOs may not be as accommodating.
"The path to a hostmanship culture paradoxically does not go through the guest. In fact it wouldn't be totally wrong to say that the guest has nothing to do with it. True hostmanship leaders focus on their employees. What drives them is finding the right people and getting them to love their work and see it as a passion. ... The guest comes into the picture only when you are ready to ask, 'Would you prefer to stay at a hotel where the staff love their work or where management has made customers its highest priority?'"
"We went through the hotel and made a 'consideration renovation.' Instead of redoing bathrooms, dining rooms, and guest rooms, we gave employees new uniforms, bought flowers and fruit, and changed colors. Our focus was totally on the staff. They were the ones we wanted to make happy. We wanted them to wake up every morning excited about a new day at work."
BP just reported very nice results. (I'm sure this comes as a great surprise to Americans paying $4.00+ per gallon at the pump—and Brits springing for $10.00+ for the same amount of petrol.) The "humor" part of the news item was the relatively new CEO, Tony Hayward, claiming that the good news was a product of "the first signs of real change inside the company." (He inherited a bit of a mess.)
He was joking, right?
If 100.00000000000% of BPers had been sound asleep at their work stations throughout the quarter, BP would have had great results as oil hit $120 per barrel.
Do these guys—e.g., "Big Tony"—really believe that their "programs are paying off"? I know it's a game, but surely they must understand what complete idiots they sound like.
On second thought, I guess I can understand their reluctance to tell it like it is: "Wow, are we ever lucky blokes! The Chinese are inhaling hydrocarbons by the gazillions of barrels with no end in sight, the guzzlin' Americans still think "conservation" is a 4-letter word, and the Royals in Saudi and their pawns at OPEC know they have the world over a barrel, as it were. Hence, with no action whatsoever by us, demand is soaring, supply is constrained, and our shareholders are rolling in the resultant loot. Plus, we'll be able to keep capital expenditures well under control, since there is utterly no incentive to find or refine more hydrocarbons and thence increase supply and thereby wound the geese that are laying the golden eggs. You can confidently look forward to us doing absolutely nothing except hiring more accountants and acquiring bigger vaults."
How simply can I put it: There is no one in ad world that I respect more than Lee Clow, the chief creative at TBWA Worldwide—he's been my hero since the 1985 Apple ad showing IBMers as lemmings walking off a cliff. (I was in the Stanford stadium when it played for the one and only time during the Super Bowl.)
The New York Times recently reported on Lee's remarks at a big ad world confab. He seems to have said that the key to getting with it in the New World Order of advertising-marketing is hiring lots of youngsters and giving them more or less free rein to invent the future.
Seems as though I've heard that line before—from me.
Well, to a large extent, Lee and I are simply full of it.
How about hiring ... old people [and giving them more or less free rein to invent the future]?
That is: I have met the future, and it is me!
As most of you know, Susan and I have just returned from a seven-day walking tour along the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. There were about 15 of us. As I recall, the age range was about fifty to a little over seventy-five. (!!) While the daily hikes were not reminiscent of the Boston Marathon that occurred the day after we left, they were up-and-down, rocky, and averaged perhaps eight miles a day.
You didn't have to be a Rockefeller to be a part of the group, but a reasonable amount of money changed hands, especially when airfare is included.
We—collectively—are the poster "children" for the most enormous-wealthy-healthy market opportunity, well, ever. As in: ever.
Bill Novelli, AARP head, lets us in on the world's most commercially profound "secret":
"People turning 50 today have more than half of their adult life ahead of them."
When I first read that, I believe it's no exaggeration to say that I literally "gasped." I guess I more or less knew it, but I'd never seen it in such plain-succinct text.
Of equal impact, on a micro level, was the fact that:
The average American buys 13 cars in the course of a lifetime.
She-he buys seven of the thirteen after the age of 50.
More than half.
The leading edge of boomer-dom is now over 60. I tried to describe, on a single PPT slide, what I think is coming-here, from the Boomers, and their older peers, the [amazingly healthy] Geezers:
"We are the Aussies & Kiwis & Americans & Canadians. We are the Western Europeans & Japanese. We are the fastest growing, the biggest, the wealthiest, the boldest, the most (yes) ambitious, the most experimental & exploratory, the most different, the most indulgent, the most difficult & demanding, the most service & experience obsessed, the most vigorous, (the least vigorous,) the most health conscious, the most female, the most profoundly important commercial market in the history of the world—and we will be the Center of your universe for the next twenty-five years. We have arrived!"
Back to my gripe with my friend Lee Clow.
Here is my current report card on the market's (manufacturers, retailers, designers, marketers, product and service developers) effort to understand and encompass and exploit this Incredible-Humongous Expanding Market Opportunity:
As I put it, ever so gently, and with great cultural sensitivity, post-Croatia, in my London seminar on 28 April:
"You are all idiots."
Hint: I considered it understatement.
NB: I am not suggesting that things aren't changing. But I am suggesting-insisting that I and my friends on the trip to Croatia and several hundred million others with literally trillions of bucks-Euros burning holes in our collective pockets, will be the centerpiece of economic opportunity for the next Two Decades or so. It ain't forever, but 20 or 25 years is a good, solid hunk of time.
Think: Next quarter century!
(After that you're on your own—and I ain't gonna be bugging you.)
Further to Valarie's "tuck it in" clip from Tom's London speech, here's my personal top ten takeaway thoughts from another mega happening in London. Tom, sorry if these are not quite verbatim. I did my best. You deliver the hits faster than I can scribble them down!
1. Excellence comes from human beings doing things of value that customers find memorable.
2. Remember. You are the only human being in the world who can help this particular customer at this particular moment in time.
3. The thing that keeps a business ahead of the competition is excellence in execution.
4. Brand inside is more important than brand outside for sustained success.
5. Leaders' careers will usually be determined by their handling of one or two critical events that no one could possibly anticipate or plan for.
6. Make sure that you spend your time on the things you say are your priorities.
7. Tuck the shower curtain in and give away two-cent candy!
8. It's remarkable how quickly an excellent culture can be torn apart by poor management.
9. Irrelevance comes from always doing the things you know how to do in the way you've always done them.
10. If you love your company and love what you do, you will serve your customers better—period!