Most of us have had a Radio Flyer wagon. Other than my first bicycle…. a wagon was a favorite toy.
Business Week had a recent article on Radio Flyer product development. The wagon featured in the article was a model called Fold 2 Go Wagon. A collapsible version of the classic red wagon.
After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in development and production, the company pulled the plug on the product….”it didn’t live up to the Radio Flyer standard.”
There are two parts to this story:
- One-Radio Flyer was willing to continually develop new products. Yet, if they didn’t pan out….they learned from their experience. Failure was acceptable….and even expected. Otherwise, people will play it safe and the Radio Flyer brand would stagnate.
- Two-Radio Flyer, the company was founded in 1917 in Chicago. 2008 sales were $96 million. So these folks are a relatively small, independent company. The headquarters are still in Chicago, although much of the manufacturing takes place in China.
The Radio Flyer lesson is that the brand is critical….protect the brand. A ninety-two year old business will continue on if it develops new products and maintains the purpose of the company. Radio Flyer is part of the American toy culture and has protected its brand and business.
Can it be done?
Most businesses/organizations seem to reach a certain level of performance. And many can’t get beyond that.
The real difference in great businesses is that everyday they strive to be remarkable. And for some folks that’s not easy. The daily routine gets in the way. We were in business during a challenging period of time in Michigan, similar to today’s economic climate.
What kept us going….was the fact that each day was a new day. While we didn’t know it at the time we were always trying to:
We are members of a local health club. Fortunately, it has been stable and fairly well-managed.
Susan was a partner of the group that owned several of the clubs and was also our local on-site manager.
Susan knew the business and was an excellent MBWA manger. Not only did she do the health club exercises, she also wandered around the facilities and engaged the members.
What Susan’s MBWA said to the members was:
I value you as great customers and want you to continue to use our health club.
The current manager….doesn’t do this….everytime we vist….he’s in his office. Though the club is well-run, it seems in this industry….the members should be the top priority….not only new but existing.
I have seen leaders/managers that have no clue of what’s going on in their businesses/organizations. No wonder they are in complete surprise when they lose customers, employees and business.
NWA 188-San Diego to Minneapolis
I wrote a while back on pilot professionalism, in particular Capt. “Sulley” Sullumberger and the Hudson River landing.
Another recent flight event occurred where Northwest Flight 188 went 150 miles past its destination of Minneapolis.
There are of course various stories of why. Also the criticism of airlines for their demands in terms of pay and work conditions.
There will be plenty of ways to spin this incident.
Whatever we do in our businesses or organizations….success depends greatly on that we perform like professionals….that people trust.
In my Air Force training it was:
Yes Sir….No Sir….No Excuse Sir!
The bottom line is that if you are a professional….perform like a professional.
The Top 50List
The business school at Michigan is very good. Both the undergrad and graduate programs are always in the top ten and often in the top five rankings.
I follow a little of the school….and I’m thinking about getting more involved. Perhaps I missed some of the benefits over the years.
What got my attention was Forbes latest list of 50 management thinkers/consultants. Number one on the list was C.K. Prahalad from the U of M. Number 31 was David Ulrich also from Michigan and was at the School of Business when I was there.
There are some folks I follow on the Forbes list….some I don’t.
The point here is that if these top 50 are some of the best….than we should pay attention to what they have to say. While some businesses have not always been on their best behavior….it will be the well led and managed businesses that will lead and grow the economy.
Mechanical / Biological
Chris Gibbons from Littleton, CO wrote this:
So here’s what I’m thinking in the business world: it is about both. The great mechanical thinking that built GM into the world’s powerhouse corporation (they got better and better at “answers”), also brought it down as all that certainty couldn’t adapt to a changing world.
“Answers” and adapting are at the two ends of the spectrum. Answers are certain. Adapting is always changing.
The key is to know which system you are operating in so you know which set of rules to apply. The engineering, the accounting, the legal, the machines on the shop floor are mechanical systems. The customers, the managers, the employees, the market research, the marketing are biological systems.
If I had read this years ago….it would not have meant much. Our primary concerns were opening the door….selling our products….paying the bills….plowing the snow….unloading freight cars….delivering our products. In otherwords doing business.
However….the true success of most businesses/organizations is the ability and the necessity to grow and prosper.
So Chris hits the target here….while it may sound abstract….it isn’t. Enterprises have to think about their market….customers….and people.
If they don’t adapt….they won’t exist
Looking In vs Looking Out
In business we all have a tendency to look at what we do from the inside out. In otherwords, we see our products/customers/business from our own perspective.
That always doesn’t work!
Always look at what you do from the outside in….from the customers perspective.
In our family business….I always wanted to give our customers the best impression when they entered the business. If we presented a clean….friendly picture to them when they walked through the door….we made a nice first step in determining their needs and completing the sales process.