Category Archives: Consulting

My Signature Dish

Foodie Friday and it’s time to plan out the weekend. I’ve got some friends arriving during the week and they’ve already asked for some very specific things to eat. Not because they’re picky eaters but because I’ve served them before and they seem to consider these things as signature dishes of mine.

If you watch “Beat Bobby Flay” on the Food Network, the heart of the competition is when a chef names his or her signature dish and competes against Bobby who tries to improve on the chef’s version. Sometimes Bobby does just that, usually by making it his own. He’ll add some different spices or honey. He’ll plate it more attractively or top it with a relish that brings out the dish’s flavor. When you think about it, Bobby is altering the chef’s signature to make it HIS signature. It’s not forgery; it’s uniquely his.

That’s something each of us should be asking ourselves about our own business. First, what’s MY signature dish? What do I make in a way that is truly mine? No chef walks on Bobby’s show and announces some dish that the chef has made up. It’s always something standard – bouillabaisse, green chicken curry, veggie burgers, or any one of hundreds of things you can find on many menus. The chef is known for cooking it in their own unique way. What are you known for that may be done by others but not as well or as uniquely as you?

If you can’t really answer the question, that might be something you want to spend some time and develop. When you’re basically a commodity, you have very little room to compete on anything but price. If market demand is overwhelmingly high, you’re fine. When it’s not, you’re in trouble.

Your signature dish is you. It represents your style and identity. It becomes a part of how others see you. If your business doesn’t have one, you need to get in the proverbial kitchen and get to work developing one. Sooner rather than later, please!

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Filed under Consulting, food, Helpful Hints

As Clear As Broken Glass

I bought a new (used) car a couple of weeks ago. The old one, which I loved, had some weird electrical things going on and I figured it was smarter to get rid of it before it decided to bail on me. Frankly, I didn’t like the service department at the nearest official dealer either. The last time I went there (and I only went there for warranty repairs), they kept me for 4 hours for something that they said would take an hour.

The latest car is great except the screen for the entertainment/navigation/etc. system had little spider cracks in it. It turns out it’s common to this make and is due to dramatic temperature changes over time. It is under warranty and I could have it fixed for free. Well, guess who was going to do that repair?

You can’t make this up, but it was the same service department that serviced the other make of car. Oh sure, it was in the building next door but it is common ownership and, as I found out, common customer service philosophy. The dealer from whom I bought the new car called and set up an appointment for me to go have the screen replaced. The part was ordered. I got there on time. When they called me back in after an hour, the screen hadn’t been replaced and they gave me an estimate to do $2,000 of other work. Do you think I was happy?

I won’t belabor the story, except to say that it turns out the dealers have to submit photos that they take via their internal system to have the warranty repair approved prior to making the repair. I found that out from a second “official” dealer I went to. They had me there for 30 minutes and said they’d call when the part came in. It came in and yesterday the repair was done in exactly the amount of time they said it would take. New screen, no charge, great service. Yay!

Of course, the first dealer wasn’t happy about the review I posted nor about the response I gave to the questionnaire about my service from headquarters. They never explained the need for an initial visit nor did they explain why the part they had ordered was given to another customer according to what my dealer found out.

It’s a great reminder that customers can handle pretty much anything except being lied to or being kept in the dark. They posted an answer to my review but my comments are out there. They’re accurate but probably could have been prevented had the manager simply explained the warranty process to me and not tried to sell me on a bunch of stuff I didn’t really need at that point. I went to him with a problem. Instead of a solution, he tried to tell me I had many other problems (or my car did) without solving the one I needed him to solve. 

Be open. Be honest. Solve your customers’ problems. You’ll be in business for a long time.

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Filed under Consulting, Huh?

Feeling Fit

This Foodie Friday, it’s about chickens and eggs. Putting aside the age-old question about which came first, I read something interesting about them the other day and I thought it pointed us all in a good direction.

Before we get into our topic at hand, let me ask you if you wear any sort of device such as a Fitbit? I only started wearing one about 9 months ago but I’ve learned quite a bit about how my body works. For example, I have a very low resting heart rate and I generally fall within the norms for men my age when it comes to my sleep pattern. It’s also helpful when it comes to tracking how much exercise I get and I was surprised to find that walking up and down the hills of my golf course is equivalent to walking up and down 60 floors.

It turns out that we can use Fitbit-like devices for other things, one of which is to improve egg production without chemicals. Scientists at the University of California have found that a Fitbit-like device worn by farm chickens may help combat insect infestations and eventually increase the production of fresh eggs. The tiny device tracks bird behavior rather than steps. It measures a chicken’s distinct actions, such as biting, pecking, and preening. Chickens who engage in more feather cleaning are more likely to have infections, and the data can help farmers track down affected chickens before an infestation spreads to the whole flock.

It got me thinking about how we tend to take whatever measuring we’re doing in business for granted without actually spending time thinking about if there are things unmeasured that could be useful or if we could measure things in a different way. Many of the analytics we’re used to seeing are, frankly, pretty useless. Marketing investment is justified based on activity (GRPs, Impressions, Reach, etc.), and not based on outcomes (Revenue, Loyalty, Intent, etc.). The chicken producers are smarter than that. Their focus is on the outcome – more eggs.

We need to think about what we measure in terms of purpose and not just in terms of output. We need to reframe our thinking. And I must be pretty passionate about this because according to my Fitbit, my heart rate is up a full 3 beats per minute as I’m writing this!

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Filed under Consulting, food