Filed under: Business Growth, Pittsburgh, Profitable Growth, Uncategorized
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you cut out all extra service and personal touches from your business? Would customers still come if you were excellent but detached? My recent shoulder surgery was an in-your-face experience of how this works.
After enduring shoulder pain for a year, an MRI confirmed that my rotator cuff was ripped apart. I found Pittsburgh’s best surgeon, and after a 15-minute consult, he booked me. 90 days later, I arrived for the surgery, and was quickly processed, IV’d, gurneyed and staged for the operation. No visit from the surgeon, little small talk from the nurses, and no remorse for their 2-hour delay in pre-op.
When I objected, they sedated me to ensure my compliance and placed me in the queue. The surgeon never visited before or after the procedure, and three hours after the operation, I was sent home to heal. A week later I had my ten-minute follow-up with the surgeon. Running out of time with more questions to ask, I tempted him with the only lure I had. I suggested that he operate on my other shoulder. At this, he gave me another ten minutes, satisfied all my concerns, and recommended scheduling the next one before the summer.
How did this make me feel? Am I a happy customer? What business lessons did I take away from this experience?
I am happy with my surgeon and the results to date. Yes, I felt deprived until I accepted that when it comes to surgery, I’d better get my loving at home. My surgeon and the procedure have my highest recommendation. If anyone needs a shoulder surgeon, call me at 412-973-2080, and I’ll put you in contact with the best one I know.
So what lessons can we learn on running our businesses in a cost-constrained marketplace where raising prices or offering more value is impossible? How do you provide your value when your market won’t pay you for it?
• If you offer a small part of the total package your customer is buying (surgery vs. a fully recovered shoulder), you must be efficient at delivering the only part you can.
• If you have to run a high-volume operation, focus all your resources on maintaining quality and efficiency at the highest volume possible and cut out any and all distractions.
• Spend your non-delivery time on generating more customers.
• Have faith that factors you can’t control — like physical therapy and patient commitment to rehabilitation — will make your work (surgery) speak for itself.
Many years ago, when I was a corporate manager, I sat in on an esprit de corps meeting during which a furious debate ensued over the impact of some corporate policy on how some employees might feel. After listening to this debate, my favorite executive stood up and said with exasperation, “For God’s sake, they can get their loving at home, we run a business here.”
Perhaps there’s a lesson for many of our businesses. Despite every efforts we make to cushion and enhance the experience we offer, sometimes it’s only about focusing on your best and highest use and letting your customers meet their other needs on their own.
Filed under: Business Growth, Pittsburgh, Profitable Growth, Uncategorized
Years ago, when visiting Turkey with our daughter, Margo, my wife Joan and I understood we would have to drag her CF-related medicines and aerosols across the world. But the allure of visiting the world’s wonders, summering on the Aegean and visiting my family sold us. We sailed through TSA, landed in Heathrow and shuttled to the European terminal all in good time for our Istanbul flight, when disaster loomed. One of Margo’s bags didn’t make it off the bus. I grabbed our passports and tickets and raced off to hunt it down. Meanwhile, Joan found the special-needs room where British Airways suggested Margo’s machine could be hooked up for her respiratory therapy. Converters and adapters were mismatched for the UK’s currency, causing the machine to catch fire, sending billows of smoke into one of the world’s most heavily guarded terminals. Curious how this mishap turned out?
Just after ambulances, bomb-sniffing dogs and the anti-terrorist squad descended on Joan, I triumphantly returned with Margo’s lost bag, only to see that my victory was a sideshow. Once she assured the police that hospitals and prisons were not needed, Joan calmly found the Heathrow Airport Clinic, Boots pharmacy and a local courier service all of whom collaboratively raced to replace Margo’s combusted machine and delivered it to us, just in time to board our flight to Istanbul. Without Margo’s machine or the bag, we would have had to abort our trip and return home. With deep gratitude to the customer- service heroes above, I challenge you to submit a more exciting example below. I will give a free workshop to the winner!
Filed under: Business Growth, Profitable Growth, Top Line Growth
You may know my daughter has cystic fibrosis. I’m not asking for a donation or sympathy, but instead, that you gain from my experience. I hope you never have a loved one in the hospital, let alone for months. Nonetheless , spending nearly a year in Pittsburgh and Cleveland’s finest health facilities have taught me how to manage doctors, and as it turns out, how to manage subcontractors. Here’s what working with doctors has taught me:
1. As the patient’s advocate, you serve the role of general contractor and treat the whole patient. The doctors, gifted specialists that they are, serve as the role of gifted subcontractors responsible for excellence in their specialty. Therefore assume and take responsibility for assuring that your patient (much like a client) is best being served by the subcontractors you oversee.
2. Hospitals must focus first on the patient and treating his or her problem. The burden on you as the advocate/general contractor to manage the process will be profound. Budget for and expect to have your notions of time, energy and resources stretched beyond reason.
3. Teaching hospitals have righteous but conflicting priorities which create a problem for you the general contractor. Indulging the apprentices (residents and interns) so they can report up to their fellows and attending (master craftsmen) does less for your loved one’s health care but more to further the body of medical knowledge. Expect them to have read the charts and respect your loved one’s needs.
Beyond the hardships and indignities both to the patient and you the general contractor, your doctors are brilliant selfless experts under constant pressure to see more patients, learn more science and avoid all mistakes. Still, both in the medical field as well as in the business world of subcontractors remember to delegate the task but not your responsibility.
As Paul Simon sings, “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.”
One casualty of all the corporate downsizings, bankruptcies and restructurings are customers. Many are now being neglected by their vendors. Suppliers have cut staff, dropped service levels and assigned junior people to key accounts.
With so many companies focusing on fewer products, services and customers, why not make a home for another company’s cast-offs? What a great source of profitable growth for your company!
Here are five such ways to profitably grow your business.
1. Ask your customers which products and services their suppliers are ignoring.
2. Notice which competitors are increasing their outsourcing, online service or prices and offer their customers traditional services they prefer.
3. Sell your competitors on selling you their unprofitable customers.
4. Partner with your customers to meet their customers’ needs.
5. Work with your suppliers to service their other customers’ customers that they see being neglected.
Whenever companies are being bought, sold and closed, their customers are often innocent bystanders or unintended casualties. Swoop in with your great service and support and save them. They will never forget you for helping them in their time of need.
And you could have a brand new source of profitable growth!