New Field

This is a season when you have to fight hard to help great ideas survive. Success is surviving. But if you can make it through, you’ll re-emerge in a less crowded field, and better for it. -Ben Arment

Another business closed in Michigan. Perhaps it could have survivied….it had been somewhat of a competitor to ours when we were in business….though 25 miles away in Fremont. It did well years ago because Fremont was the home of Gerber Products (baby foods).

This is a time for new ideas. In the past, businesses/organizations could evolve….that isn’t the case anymore….changes need to be quicker and continual. I still see folks that want to evolve….rather than make a radical change. That field is crowded.

Apple a $40 B comapny creates its own field. All of its products could sit on a conference table. It is creating new ideas….new products continually.

Those that find a new direction….new markets….new customers will be in a new field.

Customer Care

Not a good day

I often think businesses/organizations don’t care about the customer/visitor. Sure they may say that they have great customer service….yet in the long-term do they execute it? Words are easy….execution difficult.

Three examples of execution of customer care on Monday:


+ Toyota-The recent recalls have put Toyota on the spot. They have to protect the brand. Not only must they be humble in accepting the issues….they must execute….they have to care about the customer and fix the problem regardless of costs.

The company that did our bath conversion called and wanted to use us a reference. I wrote previously that it simply needed to complete the sale with a “thank you” followup. I wanted them to care. Sadly….no refernce yet.

+ A home remodeling company that gave us a bid, sent out a bulk email yesterday (Only send out promotion emails whan you have permission….doing so otherwise alienates potential customers). In this particular email, it wasn’t even done correctly and over 300 unwanted address dumped into my email address book. It took over an hour to clean them out. I even called the owner and got an abrupt reply. If this is how this company handles customer care….why would I be interested in doing business with them.

The Lesson Learned: Execute real customer care. That’s what keeps customers for the long term. If a business/organization doesn’t want to do this….it needs to find something else to do.

Undercover Boss 3


Last nights Undercover Boss (UB) was the CEO of the 7-11 convenience stores. 7-11 is a world-wide business with sales of $17 B. Most of the stores are franchised….with the 7-11 corporate organization providing support services and products.

Joe DePinto is the CEO and a West Point graduate.  He seemed to be a likable leader. The real story is that all these executives use the UB experience to discover what it’s really like for the people on the front lines. It’s those folks that interact with the customer and make the difference in business performance.

At the end of the show….the UB makes a speech before maybe a couple hundred people from corporate HQ….kinda staged….stating that they will change….lets wait a few months to see if that does happen. UB should have a 6 month AAR (After Action Report).

 All three UB’s have said they wanted to use the experience to be better.

They all must have read the TrueNorth blog!

Good News

Everything Helps

I write often about my hometown in Michigan and the challenges in reinventing itself from an industrial town to being viable in a global world.

Last week….General Dynamics announced they were moving an engineering center to the Detroit area… about 100 engineers….not good news.

However good newsUnited Airlines began jet service to Chicago….more seats than the Northwest service to Detroit. The real news is that in order for any community to compete….a solid infrastructure needs to be in place. Muskegon has an excellent airport….it needs to be used to strengthen its economy. Though it’s nicer to connect in Detroit or Milwaukee than O’Hare in Chicago.

Undercover Boss 2


The second episode of Undercover Boss (UB) was on the Hooters restaurant chain. I’m not sure where UB is in the ratings. Remember it’s still TV. And I would think that with a TV crew recording everything….that folks would be on their best behavior.

That wasn’t necessarily the case on the Hooters episode as one of the Hooters restaurant managers was completely out of line. If an officer had acted like that in my Air Force days he would have been transferred immediately to some remote site in Alaska (in fact one was). I believe in this situation this manager worked for the franchisee….yet at the end of the show he did meet with the UB and apparently recognized his mistakes….a little confusing.

There are some very good leadership lessons to take away and also some questions on how businesses are really run and why executives manage the way they do.

Some relevant take-a-ways:

  • Hooters as a company is controversial because of its image and brand.
  • Coby Brooks, the UB and CEO, of Hooters is the son of the founder.
  • The ability of one of the visited stores to operate as a team was made clear.
  • It was also clear that the UB did not visit nor was respected at the Naturally Fresh Factory.
  • At the end of the show…..the UB states he will work harder to make Hooters a better company.
  • The real test is how the lessons learned are executed and reinforced in the next year(s).
  • The success of any business depends on the frontline employees….this is the real value.

Not every CEO/President/COO is a great leader.  For some leadership is a gift….for others it’s a continuous learning process….it seemed that the Hooters CEO needs to keep learning.


Radically overdeliver.

Turns out that this is a cheap and effective marketing technique.













Give the customer more than they expected. This is really a simple concept….yet many businesses don’t do it. My Camry has to be taken in for the pedal recall. One of the major Toyota dealers has run two full-page newspaper ads this weekend (at a cost I would guess of at least $5000).

They certainly want Toyota customers to return. In the ad they state “while performing the recall….complimentary beverages are available….customers will receive a coupon for discounts on future service”.

Radically overdeliver? I’m not so sure.

For the moment this dealer has taken a proactive approach….good for them. The other major dealership….no word yet.

Undercover Boss

It’s all about people (MBWA)

Undercover Boss (UB) was on TV last night. The premise is that a company’s top executive goes undercover to see what their company is really like. UB was entertaining (that’s what TV is suppose to do). The company was Waste Management Inc. and the UB was the Chief Operating Officer (COO).

Over a weeks period the COO, Larry O’Donnell, visited several different Waste Management faciliies….including a trash route….cleaning porta-potties and picking up debris on a landfill site (he didn’t do well on that job).

The real story is that a company’s performance depends on the grassroots efforts of the people. If people are treated fairly….given opportunities….and are valued, they do well and the company does well.

UB, in this first episode, was about people and their stories….and the positive results for the employees and WM.

The only question: Does it take a TV program to get management to do something that should be or should have been done all along?…..

MBWA (management by walking around)