Legacies with value added
Sunday 05 February 1995
Sure, I understand the importance of profitability, in my business as well as in others', and debate over various measures has merit. It is just that they mostly put the cart before the horse.
The horse is what you make. The financial measure - important as that is - is a derivative of the goodness and acceptance of the product. In short, my bedrock performance measure for the packaged-goods maker is: "Do you get a buzz when you use your product?" For the grocer: "Is it a kick to walk through the store during noontime rush?" And the lawyer: "Is there something pathbreaking about your approach to the case you're working on?"
Consider my own measures: 1) Does the seminar I'm presenting turn me on? To do a good job, I first must satisfy myself. I have given thousands of seminars: how do I make this one stand out from the rest? If I am to feel fresh and energetic, the seminarmaterial must feel fresh and energetic to me.
2) Does it excite the most demanding customers? While I would like all seminar participants to go home happy, my standard is to provoke the toughest customers. In Amsterdam, I worried about the chairman of a huge bakery chain, executives from Saudi Arabia, and senior managers from Hewlett-Packard. While I always go over all the feedback that I get, I read theirs first - and if I fail them, I have failed utterly. In fact, I am delighted to lose customers! I want several of them to say, "He's too far out." If I'm not too far out for the most conservative members of an audience, I'm too far in to be helpful to the risk- takers in the audience.
3) Does the material help the average customer? I haven't got it in for Joe or Jane Average. To the contrary, I insist on instant, detailed quantitative measures of customer satisfaction for all my seminars.
4) Does it pass my quantitative innovation test? I use hundreds of 35mm slides to illustrate presentations. Now and again, I count the number of new ones; I like, in general, to have about 20 per cent new material every four months.
5) Does it pass my qualitative innovation test? New slides can be mere line extensions - or completely new product families. Both are acceptable forms of innovation, but the latter is far more critical than the former. In Amsterdam, for instance, I introduced important material on product design and how to implement change if you are not the big boss.
6) Will I brag about it next year? In five years' time? You only brag about things when you have pushed hard, made some bruising, messy leap into the unknown. Obviously, not every seminar is going to pass the one-year-bragging-rights test - let alone the five-year version. But if, over a couple of months, no seminars qualify for memory lane, I'm in trouble.
7) Is the check in the mail? I do like to get paid.
8) Is it a big check? Getting Mercedes rather than Daihatsu-sized checks is a fair measure of competitive strength in my niche.
9) Is it a little check? Little checks are also important. Not just pro bono work (good stuff), but strolls down byways that allow me to explore an entirely new area. I like to give the occasional speech to folks whose businesses are foreign to me. To survive, I must study like hell.
While this list is personal, I think it is also close to universal. As I've said before in this space, I fret about "me-too" products and services in a marketplace where good products and services from all over are arriving at a breathtaking rate.
The solution is clear: bold, brash innovation that stands a chance of leaving customers - and competitors - breathless.
I have heard scores of boardroom debates on targets for earnings-per-share, appropriate internal rates of return, and so on. I've attended far too few, on the other hand, that focus directly on whether the product adds zing to the strings of my heart. That's worrisome.
Perhaps it is just that I am getting older and fretting about my own legacy. Nevertheless, I think there's ultimately just one question worth answering: Will you brag about it in the morning?
And while trimming costs and adding pennies to the earnings per share may be imperative to saving jobs now, success in the long-term will be a byproduct only of scintillating products and services you can brag about 10 years hence.
Think about it.
a TPG Communications
Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart bromance continues: X-Men star gushes about 'pussy cat' BFF Patrick Stewart
David Cameron stung by jellyfish: PM hurt after ignoring advice of locals while on holiday
South Korea ferry: Vice principal rescued from sinking ship found hanged
Hollande's affair: Catherine Deneuve and Sophie Marceau in war of words over President's relationship with Julie Gayet
Kim Jong-un, crowds and contraband: Inside North Korea with the the Pyongyang marathon winner
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave
- 1 KFC 'sorry' after lesbian couple are kicked out of Bath restaurant for 'heavy petting'
- 2 Dylan Tombides: West Ham confirm 20-year-old striker has died after battle with cancer
- 3 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 4 'Sinful': Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy comes under attack
- 5 PFA Player of the Year: Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard all nominated as Liverpool dominate award shortlist
iJobs Money & Business
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...
£221.25 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a well established Inter...
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Client Relationship Manager - SQL...
£35000 - £50000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: Take your chance to join the...