A Business Technology Place

Special Sauce

Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun. I remember that McDonald’s commercial like it was yesterday. Now, decades later, I’m still fascinated with ‘special sauce’, just not the sauce on a Big Mac. The topic is universal. What makes companies and groups successful?special-sauce

This article from Harvard Business Review about corporate survival examines the increased failure rate of companies that start today versus those that started before 1980. Their research found that, “firms listed after 2000 spent more than twice as much as earlier firms (in percentage terms) on organizational capital and half as much on physical assets…..But that advantage is a double-edged sword, they add: The good news is the newer firms are more nimble. The bad news for these firms is that their days are numbered, unless they continually innovate.”

Innovation encompasses special sauce. Some companies find it by creating a new paradigm like Cirque de Soleil. They created a new mold for a circus by removing animals and focusing on adults with a more sophisticated form of entertainment. Chic-fil-a uses customer experience and community involvement for their special sauce to make a chicken sandwich more than just lunch. Innovation isn’t limited to technology. The special sauces from Cirque de Soleil and Chic-fil-a have staying power. While competitors can see it, they haven’t really been able to imitate it. I found the Big Mac special sauce recipe online.

Keep searching for your special sauce.

Onward and Upward!

The purpose statement – etched and forgotten?

The Purpose statement.

Does it answer the why question? Is it simple and easy to remember? Does it motivate and rally people to a common cause? Does it provide long term direction?

I’m a believer in purpose statements for organizations. But I haven’t always seen them worked, presented, discussed, referenced, or memorized.  Writing a purpose statement is hard work. So why do so many organizations just put the statement in a document and rarely reference it again?stone

The next step.

I’ve been a member of two organizations that kept the purpose statement in front of members.  Both of organizations were churches. The statement was both printed in the weekly bulletin and referenced when the church performed activities. The statements were simple, concise, easy to memorize, and actionable. They just worked.

But I’ve been in other organizations that either didn’t have a purpose statement, didn’t publish it, or had one that was almost half a page of jargon and corporate speak. Putting a purpose statement into circulation and practice is hard too. It requires intentional actions. It requires consistent application. In a word, it requires purpose.

Some practical steps to put the purpose statement into circulation.

  1. Ask group members or employees if they identify with the purpose statement. Does it motivate them and help them feel like their work contributes to a greater whole.
  2. Start placing the purpose on documents used for employee communications. Keep it visible and not just hanging on a wall.
  3. Reference and align the purpose statement when tactical decisions are made. Explain how activities, projects, and decisions align to the purpose.

I need to follow my own advice on this topic. It’s a wake-up call to keep thinking with long term purpose in mind.  Otherwise we might just go the direction the wind blows.

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Alice: I don’t much care where.

The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.

– Lewis Carroll – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865

 

Onward and Upward!

 

Employee engagement through connection and meaning

It’s true. I do still read print newspaper. It’s not so much by effort as it is by convenience and simplicity. I receive a subscription to the Gwinnett Daily Post as free benefit of continuing to pay Charter Communications a small ransom each month for cable TV.  The paper covers local news for the county I live in and picks up some AP stories for national news. What I like about it is it’s small and something I can scan quickly for news of interest to me.

This past Saturday, they published a column article from Lisa McLeod entitled People don’t like their job due to lack of connection.  Lisa points out that statistically, many workers are disengaged from their workplace because they don’t have the connection and meaning they want.

It was a timely article. Just this week I met with a co-worker on his last day on the job after he resigned two weeks earlier. Through the course of our conversation it became apparent that he didn’t have a good connection to those above him in the organizational chart and he was not finding meaning within the organization. Now understand, he’s a bright guy and a hard worker. But he wasn’t fully connected to the where the organization is headed.

I believe the point of Lisa McLeod’s article was spot-on target with what I observed from my co-worker. I don’t blame him for feeling unconnected and disengaged as I think it’s a dual responsibility between the manager and employee to find connection and meaning at work.

Since I’ve worked in IT and now marketing during my career, I have seen how business engagement works within the two organizations. In marketing and sales there emphasis is on company strategy, revenue, sales, and client resigns. In IT, the focus and business engagement is usually around systems, costs, and processes.  This creates an opportunity for IT organizations.  People value meaning in their work effort, and true business meaning comes with understanding how the work they are completing drives revenue, reduces cost, and enhances customer relationships.

Something I did recently when I was asked to manage a team at work was to define mission and purpose of our group as a piece of the larger the organization.  My intent was to provide the team with connection to each other and a connection to the work of the organization. Here’s an edited version of what we created:

Mission (why our organization exists):

Enable the value drivers of the organization to help clients:

  • Increase revenue
  • Reduce expenses
  • Enhance their customer relationships across internet, phone, and client channels.

Purpose (why we exist within the organization)

Create revenue by:

  • Enabling customer self-service web and phone channels by selling, servicing and managing company products and services.
  • Enabling clients to be more effective  and efficient when making product and service choices on behalf of their customers.
  • Helping internal stakeholders to be relevant and credible to company clients by guiding, recommending, and enabling technology that produces customer interaction.

If you’re a manager leading people, I’d be interested to know how you create connection and meaning with your employees. Is this something difficult or easy for you?

 

Business decisions: customers, profits, and the golden rule

Building from your roots

I continually digest a steady diet of business related materials to see what others are doing that is successful and to generate ideas for my work routine both in business and hobbies. These business materials are in various formats, including books, blogs, published articles, and pod casts. Call me crazy, but I think about putting theory into practice at work to gain the benefits of the knowledge.  One area where I see a disconnect between popular business theory and popular business practice is the fundamental basis for making business decisions. In my experience, its becoming more common placed to see individuals making business decisions solely on the basis of money. It gets me thinking about life lessons you teach your kids, “there’s more to life than money”, and the relevance it has in the business world.

I often hear statements like:

“Will it make us a million?”

“How do I make practice ‘abc’ turn into profits?”

“What’s the contribution margin of that?”

Now, I’m not saying these aren’t legitimate business questions. From an operational perspective and in consideration of financial stakeholders they are very valid. The disconnect I see is that business leaders are not considering the mission and purpose of their business. At some point in the past each company started with an entrepreneur who had a passion to create some product or deliver some service. He or she knew that if they created that product/service and it was valuable to someone then they would buy it and become a customer. The entrepreneur did want and need the profits from their work to make a living. But profits were a by-product of creating a valuable product/service. My point is, a company needs to make money and profits to survive, but profits are not the purpose of the business. They can often lead to short sighted decisions at the expense of their most valuable asset; customers buying their product/service.

Which gets back to my observation. Why are so many business decisions made now without consideration of the customer, the product/service, the mission?

Do you agree that true profits come when you fulfill the original purpose of the company? Do companies profit more in the long term (life time value of a customer) by focusing more on the customer, product/service, and retention?

Outside of business everyone seems to respect the golden rule; treat others as you would like to be treated. Maybe that’s not in business theory or practical business use because it doesn’t optimize profits. But then again, maybe following the golden rule does optimize profits for the long term by retaining customers longer.

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