Tag Archives: Business process

Seven New Fishes

This is the last Foodie Friday post before Christmas and I’m writing it while sitting on a train heading north. Seven years ago (how is this for synergy), I wrote a piece about the Seven Fishes. You’ll read the original piece below.  In addition to the original business point it makes, this train ride is adding a corollary. With spotty wifi, I have quite a bit of time to reflect. One thing I’m anticipating is that while my family has its own holiday traditions, this year will be different. My sister has moved far away, so no Christmas morning with her family. We welcomed a new person into our family officially this past summer so the core family itself is different. The gifts have become less important; the family time way more so.

To put the end at the beginning, questioning why we do things in business needs to be done with the knowledge that like it or not, change is constant. We might as well control the change and not react to it. To those of you celebrating, Merry Christmas. To those of you just eating, enjoy.

Our Foodie Friday theme today is La Vigilia, the Christmas Eve tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes.  Now what, you might ask, does a nice Jewish boy know about such things?  Well, having spent a great deal of my youth around my best friend’s Italian mother and grandmother while they cooked, I know quite a bit.  I know that they started to prepare this feast several days in advance, as they put salt cod into water to hydrate it (there was a running battle about using milk to do that).  I know that they spent many hours over the subsequent days preparing all manner of seafood – fried, broiled, and baked.  And I know that it all was mind-blowingly good.

There’s one thing I didn’t know, and still don’t, about the Feast:  what does it represent?  Everyone knows it came as a southern Italian tradition and there are lots of theories about the number 7.  But apparently no one knows for sure and that’s the business point to end the week.

All too often in business, we do things because that’s the way they’ve always been done.  When we ask why or what does it mean, there is much head-scratching and often there’s uncertainty but both are generally followed with a shrug of the shoulders and a supposition that someone higher up wanted it that way.  I used to tell new employees that they possessed a rare commodity: fresh eyes with which to examine all of our business traditions.  They were not supposed to take “because that’s how we’ve always done it” as a satisfactory answer if something didn’t make sense to them.  Sometimes as we dug down into the “why” we figured out a better “how.”

I’m not sure it’s important that we understand the “why” of La Vigilia, but that’s an exception.  In business, everything changes pretty rapidly and the traditional ways may no longer work.  Questioning the reasons why we do certain things is a critical item on the path to success and we should encourage it.

And now, it’s off to go find some fresh fish.  Buon Natale!

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Filed under Helpful Hints, What's Going On

Adding Value

I think most of us can distinguish between cost and value. Buying something at a lower price improves the cost, but if the item breaks and needs to be replaced in a month, the value of what we bought at that lower price is quite low. Smart shoppers do that cost/value equation in their heads as they shop, which places the onus on us as businesspeople to provide superior value no matter what business we’re in.

How can we do that? It’s not just by lowering the price, although if what you’re selling is a commodity, the price differential becomes pretty important. To a certain extent, that’s something I deal with as a consultant. You might have noticed, there are a lot of us out here. What I need to do, when talking to potential clients, is to help them to understand why I’m worth the premium I charge when compared to many others out here. I do that by adding value in some of these ways:

  • Understanding their perspective. I see my business through their eyes which means I must research them, ask a lot of questions, and then present myself in a way that is meaningful and valuable to them.
  • Giving them something for nothing. Sometimes it’s just a series of articles I’ve found that are relevant to them but those articles demonstrate how part of my service to them is to help them stay informed and ahead of the competition.
  • For existing clients, I’ll often do many of the “little” tasks that end us distracting my client from their main purpose. That can mean writing up brainstorming sessions, breaking our their web analytics, or updating their website. That helps them by reducing anxiety, by keeping them focused, and because I’m generally not as rushed and more experienced than they are, improves the quality of those lesser tasks.

Adding value needs to be as basic as breathing for any of us in business. The real challenge is in making the type of value you add correlate to the needs of each customer. How will you do that today?

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Crazy

I like crazy.  Not in the clinical sense since that’s kind of disturbing once you’ve seen it.  I like crazy in a couple of the other senses of the word and I think craziness is actually a desirable characteristic in most businesses.  You might think I’m encouraging strange behavior and wild rants.  I’m not, unless “strange behavior” encompasses pushing back against the status quo.

The Jetson family (clockwise from upper left) ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First, I think our goal in business is to get our customers to be “crazy” about our brands.  That might sound easy but if so, why don’t we see more brands with fan bases as engaged and passionate as that of, say, Apple?  The newest iPhones went on sale to so-so reviews and yet there are lines to buy them.  Apple fans are so crazy for the brand that competitors make commercials about it.   That’s the kind of crazy we want.

Second, most of us are very afraid of the crazy idea.  We use crazy as a pejorative.  That’s…crazy!  All great ideas began as someone’s crazy concept.  Put a human on the moon.  Humans flying.  Driverless cars.  When I was  kid watching the Jetsons, that was all just someone’s crazy imagination.  Today, it’s reality for the most part.  What slows us down as businesses is resistance to the crazy idea, not the idea itself.  Look at the what the music business went through as digital emerged.  Had they embraced the crazy idea of separating songs from albums and distributing the product digitally they would have prevented years of piracy, the need to sue their customers (now THAT’S crazy), and lost revenues.

Finally, there are the offshoots of crazy – crazy like a fox – or crazy as a word to add positive emphasis – crazy smart.  Personally, I’m a fan of what others might call “crazy talk” – what Steve Jobs was referring to when he talked about those who push the human race forward.   “While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

So call me crazy, but I’m with him.  You?

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Filed under Thinking Aloud