What’s the distinctive PURPOSE of your business?

My friend, Jeb Bell — follow him on Twitter at @gladspuck — forwarded an article from the New York Times’ “You’re the Boss” column that I found both fascinating and instructive on why so many professionals and their organizations fail to create distinction in their marketplace.

Titled, “How Can Jimmy Beans Wool Get Its Growth Back on Track?” the post examines an online yarn and fabric retailer with a brick-and-mortar store in Reno, Nevada named, obviously, Jimmy Beans Wool.  The article states, “Founded in 2002 by Laura and Doug Zander, the company began as a small storefront yarn shop and developed a loyal following online through its creative use of social media, most notably YouTube videos. From 2007 to 2012, sales grew organically at an annual rate of as much as 50 percent. They topped $7 million in 2013.”

  • Remember that for a moment:  by developing a “loyal following” through a focus on what made them distinctive, they were growing as much as 50% a year.  I’ve watched a couple of the YouTube videos — they’re homespun and tightly centered on information and insight to help people who knit, crochet, and loom.

Trouble was on the horizon, however, as the story from NYT continues: “About two years ago, Ms. Zander began to think bigger. ‘Everyone in the business community was saying we could be a $100 million business,’ she said. That became her goal. Toward that end, she implemented numerous growth strategies. But sales fell flat, and, in subsequent months, dropped further. The Zanders stopped taking salaries, started paying employees out of their personal savings account and rethought their growth plans.”

  • OK — analyze that last statement a bit more thoroughly: “Everyone in the business community was saying we could be a $100 million business,” Ms. Zander declares.  And, therein lies what I believe to be the problem.

The rest of the article has various consultants spouting the typical crap about what they think should be done next — from cost cutting ideas to expanding their number of retail locations.  Some of them, on the other hand, are quite insightful.

However, here is what I think is the central issue:  Somewhere along the way — after listening to those described as “everyone in the business community” — the PURPOSE of Jimmy Beans Wool moved from being “a distinctive company to serve knitters and crocheters” and turned into “we want to become a $100 million company.”

When the very PURPOSE of your business moves from “creating distinction (in part through the Ultimate Customer Experience ®)” into “becoming a company that sells $X worth of our stuff,” my bet is that you will achieve neither your financial goals nor marketplace distinction.

Can you become a $100 million company that sells yarn?  I don’t know.  However, my bet is for that to happen, you have to worry more about serving knitters than you do about the size of business that you want to become.

  • And, what was so wrong with organic growth of 50% per year?

What if you maintain that pace?  7 million becomes 10.5; which becomes 15.75; which becomes 23.625; which becomes 35.4375…get the picture?  Notice:  maintaining and enhancing her distinction moves the growth upward…however, the “growth strategies” that were employed have almost tanked her business.

If you’ve followed this blog, heard any of my speeches, or read my latest book, you already know that I strongly believe:  Creating distinction is THE business growth strategy.

Does it mean that Jimmy Beans Wool would’ve ended up a $100 million company?  No…it does NOT guarantee that.

But…wouldn’t you prefer to be the distinctive, highly-profitable, most-desirable resource in your marketplace — as opposed to a business where you can’t take a salary and have to pay your employees from your personal savings?

So…what’s the purpose of YOUR business?  And, what’s YOUR purpose in it?

The ONE critical element in creating a WOW experience for a customer…

If you’ve heard me deliver a presentation, you’ve probably heard me talk a little bit about Delta Airlines.  I’m a Diamond Medallion flyer with them — the top tier in their SkyMiles frequent flyer program, as my career requires my posterior to be plopped into an airline seat in order to get to work.

You may have read my comments that I believe that Delta has really stepped it up in terms of the customer experience — everything from saying “thanks” to their humorous videos onboard that explain safety procedures.

But nothing…and I mean NOTHING…prepared me for what I experienced this morning in Los Angeles!

Today, I’m traveling to Cancun for a keynote presentation and a couple of days of R&R with my wife.  I am flying today out of Vegas — and Tammy is departing from Indianapolis — and we are meeting up in Mexico.  (Appreciative, I might add, of family members willing to watch dogs and take care of houses for a few days…)  She connected this morning via Detroit, while my flight went from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, where I was to change planes for the flight to Cancun.

As a Diamond Medallion, Delta was kind enough to upgrade me for the flights…and, I was the third guy to deplane when my initial flight reached LAX.  There, standing just outside the door of the aircraft, but inside the jetway, was a smiling man holding an iPad with my name on it.

My first thought was, “Oh no! I wonder if something has happened?”  However, I next considered that he probably would not be smiling like that if he had bad news to relate to me.  He introduced himself: “Mr. McKain, good morning!  I am Frank…and I will be your elite service representative this morning.  It will be my pleasure to drive you over to your gate to assist in your departure.”  He then opened the door of the jetway adjacent to the door of the plane and motioned for me to follow!

pickmeupWe descended the steps of the jetway, and there on the tarmac was a beautiful, white Porsche Panamera!  Frank put my bags in the trunk, and we started to drive right past the planes and over to the other terminal where Delta has gates at LAX.

I told Frank that this was highly unusual — and amazing!  Frank responded, “Mr. McKain…Delta truly appreciates your business.  And, it’s my privilege to thank you personally for being such a great customer.”  He smiled broadly, “That helps me keep this job that I LOVE, you know!”

While Frank’s drive was short in duration, the impact he made will be lasting.

And, it taught me the one element critical to WOW-ING your customer: Do something unexpected!

The fact that I couldn’t imagine having someone from Delta meet my flight, thank me for my business, and drive me across the airport made an enormous impact.  It strengthens the loyalty that I have towards them — and compels me to refer and recommend them to my friends who travel.

Does this have a financial impact?  Research suggests that it does — but, here’s a bit of anecdotal proof.  On this flight, I just changed the reservation I had for a trip I will most likely be making for a speech in Estonia from United to Delta.

Right now — think of just ONE thing that you could do for a top-tier customer that would be refreshing, unexpected, and appreciated.  

Then…DO IT!

And…to Delta Airlines and Frank Quesada…a sincere THANK YOU for an “Ultimate Customer Experience! ®”




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