Unstick Your Business

Stuck in the mud! Trucks for sure….and Borders Books, Blockbuster, Sears/K-mart, Applebees.

It is easy for organizations to get stuck….not creating new products/services….not developing new customers.

For Borders, it was behind the curve in internet commerce and e-books. For Blockbuster –  failing to recognize better ways to deliver movies.

How not to get stuck:

Leaders/managers have their radars on continually seeking the new….the different….the better.

New Customers

“When you stick with your current customers, you wind up cutting yourself off from new ones. Your product or service becomes so tailored to your current customers that it stops appealing to fresh blood. And that’s how your company starts to die.” – Rework

Businesses/organizations continually have to seek new customers….that’s why marketing is a key element of any business structure.

Yet….this isn’t an either/or decision….it’s both/and. And why business is not that easy.

Great companies value their customers in providing superior product/services. They also seek out new customers so they can have new most valued customers.

Certainly a balance for both strategies….yet that is what distinguishes the best from the mediocre.

Undercover Boss – Season 2

Mack Trucks

Mack Trucks is a historical manufacturer of heavy trucks. Mack’s have been made in the US for over a hundred years. This Undercover Boss(UB) was an example of current industrial manufacturing.

Denny Slagel, Mack Trucks CEO and president….was this episodes UB.

As before, the program was predictable….although in this episode….the employees were older and in two instances had been with the company for 30+ years. In addition, these folks were somewhat settled in their positions. No one was given the opportunity to move up in the company.

The take-a ways:

  • Mack Trucks….owned by Volvo….can make a good product….the quality depends on the people and management.
  • One of the supervisors,not named….was referred to as the “warden” at the Baltimore distribution center. The theme for this segment was “low morale”. There was no indication how that was/or will be addressed.
  • Mack Trucks leadership did have to make some difficult decisions….closing a SC plant.
  • Manufacturing is still a critical part of the economy….good companies will adjust and adapt.

Best Customer

“The way you treat your best customers is a fork in the road. You either treat them better or worse than everyone else.” -Seth Godin

If there is one thing I would have liked to have done differently in our family business….was to spend a greater effort on customer relationships.

We didn’t have an Excel spreadsheest….in fact our first venture into a data-based world was an NCR register with a paper tape that updated our accounting. Our records were simple 3×5 index cards.

We did track our customers….and did do private mailings….yet we really could have provided even greater service and connectedness to our best customers.

Looking back:

Treating our best customers better would have been the only way the business could have celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011.

Design Detail

What’s It For?

It was time for a new American flag. Off to Home Depot….normally I go to Lowe’s….however Home Depot had better selection and quality.

The flag and pole are from Valley Forge Flag Co….nicely made….except there was a round plastic collar on the pole with a plastic set screw.

What’s it for? There is nothing on the printed material nor on the web site, as to what the function is of the plastic collar. There is an anti-wrap ring with a metal clip….to which the flag is attached.

Now it doesn’t really matter….the flag looks good.

Yet….does Valley Forge Flag Co look at their products from the eyes of the cutomer?….not in this case….otherwise we would know the purpose of the plastic collar.


Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-Fil-A, said,

“When we get better the customer will force us to get bigger!”

Looking back over the years….what better advice than that. Companies that follow this are companies that grow.

Of course, businesses have to have the products….the people….and resources to do that. Chick-Fil-A has those. 

Performing better has to happen everyday. It has to be part of the identity and purpose of the organization. 

The only way for that to happen is for management to make it happen.