Deliver a Superior Product

It’s the total customer experience.

Aviation has always been an aspect of what I do ….sometimes directly….sometimes indirectly. I did begin my business career with The Boeing Company in Seattle, WA so that makes it real!

A family member recently had the opportunity to fly on a NetJets Citation Ultra. While it could become a nice habit….all of us may not be able to do that, yet NetJets is a successful company providing an unique service and experience to its customers.

I went to the Web site to get more information and was impressed on how it presented its business model and product/service proposition. Certainly the site was very marketing directed. The Web site itself was first class as is the product /service it is selling. The premise of NetJets is the fractional ownership of an aircraft. A company that is part of Berkshire-Hathaway is going to do well. It has the financial resources. My take is that like a lot of innovative comapanies….NetJets created the market for an extremely high-service and personal air transporation business.

There are two key elements of the NetJets business model that apply to any business or organization:

  • If not the best-don’t do it
  • Deliver a product superior to anyone else


Loyal Customers

Forget Satisfied Customers

I don’t like to miss out on any idea/tool/resource that can make business better. So one resource that I have always bookmarked is Jeffery Gitomer. Gitomer is probably one of the most influential people on Sales.

He has written a bunch of small little books on just about every aspect of selling. In fact when I visited Barnes and Noble a few days ago, there was a neat package of maybe 6-8 of his books. They are quick reads and to the point.

Gitomer recently wrote:

I’m sick of customer satisfaction. The worst companies in the world tout the fact that they won some satisfaction award. It’s not just a bad joke. It’s a pathetic statement.

Every company is hoping that their customers will reorder. They’re hoping that their customers will spread the word about how great their products are, and about how great their people are. And they’re hoping to proactively encourage others to place an order or do business with them.

That is NOT customer satisfaction.
That is customer LOYALTY.

Every company must have loyalty as its mission, not satisfaction.
Every company must have loyalty as its imperative, not satisfaction.

I goofed up once over 30 years ago in creating customer loyalty in our family business….I have never forgotten the encounter. It’s a powerful reminder that at the end the day….the customer determines the success of your business.

Lesson Learned: Sell all the time. Keep your loyal customer for a lifetime.

Re-imagine; Re-tool; Re-invent




From Trees to Cell Phones 

Nokia, the world’s leader in cell phone technology re-invented itself from a staid manufacturing/natural resource company to a technology-driven mobile phone company. A classic case of re-invention. Tiger Woods in his desire to become a phenomenal gofer re-designed, re-invented his golf swing so that he could achieve his ultimate goals of winning major championships. In a recent newspaper article, I read that Sears wants to re-invent/reposition itself to reach a different customer demographic….a cross promotion between MTV and Sears. While Sears may want younger customers, a MTV film won’t be nearly enough to re-invent itself.

While we may not need to totally re-tool our businesses and organizations like Nokia….we do have to continually re-imagine how our enterprises connect to a changing customer and a changing world. It is pretty common to see businesses close after 20-30 years simply because they did not adapt to changing circumstances.

Lesson Learned: Continuously Re-imagine your business…..what you do and how you do it.

Complete the Sale

It’s not over over till it’s over!

A while back I related my hot water heater experience. The folks that installed the heater did a great job. Joe and Jeremiah were excellent representatives of the company. However, the sale isn’t complete until they call or send a note thanking us for our business and asking if we were completely satisfied. I think an $850 sale is significant for that to be asked.! What does asking accomplish?….it completes the sale process plus solidifying a longer term relationship. A lot of businesses forget the last step. In our family business….we worked diligently to do this. At first we were hesitant….no one likes returns after you worked so hard for the sale. However the long term potential was far greater than a short term result. Our goal always to have the customer like/love what she bought. If she didn’t she probably would not visit us again. By stengthening our bond with a very satisfied customer….we developed a relationship where we could always be a prime consideration for the next purchase.

If Project Services would have called…they would have gotten an A+ in my book….now it’s a B with qualification.

Lesson Learned: Create a long-term relationship with every customer/client. Complete the sale!


Wind Energy





Wind Turbine in a Box

What a clever idea. The idea came from the Grand Valley State University Energy Center in  my hometown in Michigan. As the economy is in transition….it is the entrepreneurial aspect of people that will result in a future stronger economy. Though Economic Gardening concepts are not formally adopted in this community….the wind turbine is a great example of creating and developing a business in the community and not relying on the next big plant to show up.

It appears that the turbine can easily be manufactured. The goal is less than $2000 per unit. While it won’t generate all a homes electricity (about 10-20% estimate) and the payback period may be rather long….just the fact that wind energy is free is significant. We need all the innovative ideas to become more energy independent.

The complete article is linked below.


Willingness to Change

“If you don’t like change you will like irrelevance even less” – Gen. Eric Shimenski

It seems like “change” has become the hot button during our current political process for nominating a president. I believe it is an important part of the business process. Looking back, we had to change the family business, many times. The local economy was changing in our town from old-line manufacturing to a mix of manufacturing, service and tourism. When we were in business, there were 15+ competitors, today in the same area perhaps 5-6 of the same type of businesses.

However, change is pretty difficult, especially when leadership doesn’t understand it or people are satisfied with being where they are. The best businesses/organizations are the ones that can adapt to a continuously changing environment. John Kotter wrote the defining resource on Change….Leading Change. Kotter creates an 8-step process. The first four being:

  • Increase urgency
  • Build the guiding team
  • Get the vision right
  • Communicate for buy-in


Most folks fail to understand the change process and when change is necessary just bumble along!

Lesson Learned:

Understand the process. Commit to change. Have a clear picture of where you want to go.



Do the Basic Things Right!

In my early business experience the basic things were: plan… organize… direct…and control. I still believe they are as important today as they were 35+ years ago. Yet in today’s business and organizational world, there are some more basics that are just as important. Having a clear vision for the enterprise….understanding the customer….getting the right people on board….a clear focus an product/services….commitment to excellence. These fundamentals are even more important as businesses are in an adjusting  business cycle.

Our seminar: TrueNorth: Wal-Mart looks at Wal-Mart from where they begun….where they are now….and what can be learned. My theory: we can learn a lot from these guys….just scale it down to our level. Oren Harari wrote recently: “Wal-Mart focuses on providing low priced goods in a practical, functional environment geared toward middle-and lower-income customers.” This is exactly what Sam Walton set out to to do. When Wal-Mart focuses on the fundamentals….they are a very effective business. Just look at their latest logo in relation to our economy. The real test: if Wal-Mart executes well at the store level.