Serve a Great Sandwich

Many businesses strive to chase the numbers by offering a number of products and services. Piles of bread, hundred different types of sandwiches.

Doesn’t matter if their product X is almost similar to competitor’s  product Y – they try to win over the price war. And its okay even if they don’t conquer the whole market, they are satisfied with just 3% of the overall market share.  It’s just one of the many product offerings they have.

Doesn’t matter if a customer gets frustrated with their services and leaves for the competition. He anyways represents a segment in which they’d find two more like him.

For a few businesses, only for a few, the opposite is true.

For one customer, one sandwich at a time, prepared and served with great care.

Freshness of the bread, quantity of cheese, quantity of ingredients, amount of sauces, time spent on backing and smile on the waiter’s face while serving – each detail is taken care. Not surprisingly, such businesses flourish regardless of the type of sandwiches they sell.

Not serving anything is a better choice than serving mediocre sandwiches.

Your business is thriving if…10

There are various data-based metrics that tell you if your business is thriving and there are certain behavioral patterns also that tell you the same. 

Here is some light on the behavioral patterns:

  1. Your business consistently gets more leads than your current business capacity;
  2. No matter with which project team your customers interact with, their delight level is almost the same;
  3. You take a 4-week summer vacation and do not get any ‘urgent’ call from the office;
  4. You have happy employees. Their lives are balanced, they are able to produce their best work and enjoy their life at fullest;
  5. ‘Department Wise Headcount’ report is topped by the Operations department (not support departments such as HR, Admin or accounts);
  6. You don’t think to open new geography every quarter – the percentage of your repeat business is very high;
  7. There’s only ONE version of mission statement across the organization;
  8. Consistent Organization specific Enterprise Environment Factors – that extend a sense of predictability in projects execution;
  9. Even if you pay similar or little less to what the market pays, people are thriving to join your organization. Keywords here are culture and experience;
  10. People in the organization prioritize their work by ‘Importance’ not by ‘urgency’.


Are You Limited by Your Own Creativity (Which used to work earlier but now not)?

Though it brings rewards in the end, most of us are afraid of challenging our own thought-patterns as if it were an invasive brain surgery.

We’re designed this way, right?


But yes, we’re conditioned this way.

A few weeks ago I had a discussion with one of my friends who shares a rare frequency and runs a successful design firm.

We talked about building the business, creating A-list teams and providing A-class customer service.

He was discussing with me about customer feedback: designers working with his firm were otherwise very good but lacked innovation. He said that it was true for even their Chief Designer who had experience as little as 18 years in the design industry.

The conclusion was to hire a fresh (but brilliant) design graduate whose job would be to passionately challenge each one of the designs that the design team comes up with.

Last week, I met my friend again to hear the good news that his customer is very happy with the recent design innovations that his team produced.

It worked like a charm. Why?

Because the beginning of the end of any great endowment is: “Falling in love with your own creation”.

Sure, you’ve to believe in yourself, your vision and your abilities. But, at the same time, following the same way of thinking just because that’s the way you’ve always done it, is the sure-fire way to attract devolution at the lightning speed.

The decision of bringing in fresh talent to challenge generated healthy conflict. The conflict was to challenge their designers’ fixed way of being and to ensure that the best comes out in the end.

Sometimes, it’s better to have someone in your team who has eyes to look at the things from a fresh lens.  Maybe it’s good to have ‘No, but, can we not…?’ kind of people rather than yes-men.

Mini Saga – Doing rather than being

Many companies focus on the looking-good type of practices than actually being good. For example,  read this mini-saga.

Doing Rather Than Being

Tactically lionized Steve joined a company as a VP, Sales and was on his first sales call. He had to win over an old client to initiate a crowning deal. The client was happy with the presentation but enunciated, “You can’t paint over a bad experience with good Sales efforts.”

The time has changed, the customer mindset has changed, they have become smarter, sharper, and declared that now such companies cannot keep making a chump of them anymore. Either be able to add value – by bringing in Linchpins or doing whatever is necessary  – or get lost.

What many #sales driven organizations sometimes forget (and how not to)

I’ve observed organizations keeping no stones unturned to sell their stuff.

From hiring (so-called) intelligent management grads from top B-schools to making a wild number of on-site visits to making a local veteran with 40 years of industry experience overloaded with more functions than he can justify – just so that other persons can focus on sales…. means getting the “Goat” in the box!

Photo Credit: Shahrokh Dabiri’s Flickr photostream

Such organizations focus solely on increasing sales. To do that, they run aggressive campaigns, extensive cold calling, participate in many trade-shows, do a large number of on-site sales visits etc. – all the time they are running, running and running… to find more customers to sell their stuff.

They do not like to invest their time in making their operations process-based/effective. Investing in industry standard certifications like CMM or ISO 9001 and the discipline that is required to maintain such certifications is a waste of energy for them. Instead, they rely on an individual’s skills to get things done. In essence, they are neglecting to measure the quality of services or the products they are providing.

Often they overlook the basic principle that if the service you provide or the product you sell is outstanding; it will sell itself!

I’m not saying that aggressive marketing efforts are bad, I’m just saying that equal attention should be given to operations part of the business as well.

Such a biased mindset negatively impacts their employees, their family life, and the overall business over the long run. Such organizations end up with the poor group of employees who are just helpless people who don’t have any other career option available and hence are staying with them.

And such organizations expect that such employees will take care of their business. Can it really happen?

Here is one way to fix this problem to an extent: validate the quality of their products and services from the customer’s perspective and ensure the right delivery.

They can:

  1. be their own customer. Call their customer service department to talk with one of the executives. Call at different times. What kind of experience do they get with different executives?
  2. hire external consultants or ask their friends to just walk-in like their real-time customers… get the report of their experiences.
  3. ask their employees, “Would you buy the services that your organization offers?”  they should also drill into the reasons.

Now they should observe the pattern of the answers. Do these patterns resemble anything? If yes then they know what to do.

My Happy Clients 12

Regardless of the business, you want to have happy clients.

Here are some of my thoughts about certain actions that directly or indirectly involve clients and can make clients happy (or sad if not done right):

  1. Never let the team’s internal conflicts come in a way of doing what is right for the client;
  2. Give your clients a deal that can add value to their business and focuses on long term results; then harvest what you plow;
  3. Have a regular meeting with your clients. If they are communicating with you,  they are essentially not communicating with your competition;
  4. Show gratitude to them. You are where you are because they are doing business with you;
  5. Respect your client’s time;
  6. Eliminate red-tape;
  7. Fast is better than slow. Make operations simple where quick-execution is effortlessly done;
  8. Invest in people and infrastructure;
  9. If you need a consultant to know what’s best for your client, then you don’t know what you’re doing – it might be okay too if you know how to hire the right consultant and still get the right thing done;
  10. Keep promises. It might be regarding a meeting, a report, a software delivery or anything;
  11. Focus on solving their problems with simplest possible solutions. Simple is better than complex;
  12. Find the ways that make it easier for them to do business with you!

There are some of the actions that revolve around your business, people, processes and tools that you use or create. Sure, the list is not comprehensive but it will give you some food for thought about what can be done to make the clients happy.