Archive for July, 2009

What! Internships for people 50+? How is that possible?

July 29, 2009 Leave a comment

by David Mezzapelle
View bio here

52 Performance Principles Sponsor
Our company has been advising people to re-visit education to sharpen old skills or learn a new one. This is especially important for people looking for a new job or simply re-entering the workforce. There is no age limitation on this advice.

So how do internships fit in? Quite simply. Employers across all industries can always use interns for a myriad of purposes. Until now, an internship was always considered sub-entry level and was reserved for students. Today more & more HR organizations are taking the time to educate employers on the benefit of hiring 50+ candidates in order to fill different roles on a flex-temporary basis (and at a low cost effective wage). This basis is the grounds for what we call a “50+ internship.”

This internship serves as a stepping stone for the candidate as they advance their career or it can be the initial foot in the door the candidate needs to work for a particular employer.

The benefits for the job seeker include:
• sharpens old skills
• modernizes the resume
• compliments any continuing education one may have taken (or is currently taking)
• some work is better than no work and this helps eliminate any gaps in time

The benefits for the employer include:
• obtaining a loyal, flexible employee with potential for a longer stay
• intern/employee can handle a variety of tasks ranging from basic to complicated
• cost effective
• a 50+ intern can usually work more hours
• more mature means more grounded. An improved ability to focus with being less easily distracted

Another factor to consider is the common misconception among young hiring managers that 50+ candidates are not up to date on the applications or tools necessary to get the job done. It is important for the candidate to diffuse that misconception early on. This can be done in a cover letter, resume and even during an interview if necessary. However, if you apply our internship concept to a candidate’s resume you will see that it also helps to diffuse the misconception along with many other benefits as well.

For more information on how your business can benefit from a 50+ intern, please visit us at or email

About JobsOver50: is a free web-based employment service for Baby Boomers & Retirees backed by the powerful GoliathJobs network. JobsOver50 connects job seekers to employers via schools & alma maters across all levels of education. This model delivers a competitive edge to candidates, a career service edge to schools and significant results to employers.

About GoliathJobs:
GoliathJobs is a free web-based employment service. We connect job seekers to employers via schools & alma maters. GoliathJobs creates partnerships with schools throughout North America which serve as liaisons. This model delivers a powerful edge to schools at no charge (and lifelong career services), a competitive edge to job seekers and high-quality results to employers. We believe that employment starts with education regardless of age, experience or educational level. 100% spam-free.


Swallow the Bullfrog

July 28, 2009 Leave a comment

by Eric Herrenkohl
View bio here

52 Performance Principles Sponsor

A friend and I were talking recently about time management and prioritization. I told him that for me, the key to getting things done is to know the single most important thing I must do that day and to do it first. That way, it is impossible to get to the end of the day and say, “I did not get anything done.”
My friend looked at me and said, “That’s called swallowing the bullfrog.”

“Excuse me?” I said.

He went on to explain. “Swallowing the bullfrog means you have a hamburger on your plate, some fries, and a bullfrog. You are required to eat everything on your plate. What do you eat first? The bullfrog, of course, so that you can get it out of the way.”

Performance Principle: Swallowing the bullfrog means doing the important things first even if they are not enjoyable. In business you have to prioritize completing tasks that are not fun in order to get ahead.

That means:
1. Before you respond to your email, follow up with prospects that have not gotten back to you yet. Your email will still be there when you are done.
2. Before you spend more time on that deal that is about to close, invest an hour in setting up appointments with brand new prospects. Your current deal will close – but you will only have new deals to work on if you prospect now.
3. Before you spend an hour completing your expense report, spend an hour researching the executives of the company you are meeting with next week. Your productivity next week depends on your preparation this week.
4. Before you do anything else, call that customer who has a complaint or problem and get it worked out. In the end, everything we do is focused on creating a great customer experience.
5. Before you get involved in administrivia on your desk, follow up again with that prospect you met with two weeks ago. Don’t wait for prospects to become clients. Ask them to move to the next step with you or move onto other prospects.

The key to time management is to know your priorities and to address them first. If you keep that in mind, and are willing to “swallow the bullfrog” every day, you will get great results.

Identifying the Elusive Influencer

July 23, 2009 Leave a comment

Identifying the Elusive Influencer
And building programs to best leverage your most influential customers

by Auren Hoffman
Read bio here

Sponsored by Compendium 2009

Most companies internally assign a value to their customers that predicts how much money the customer will spend in the future, otherwise known as ‘Total Customer Value’ (TCV). Conventionally, the best way to determine a customer’s TCV is to look at how much they have spent in the past: United Airlines gives its best customers frequent upgrades along with a special express line, free drinks, and no charges (and higher priority) for checked bags. This is because these customers have spent a lot of money with United in the past which is a very good predictor that they will spend a lot of money with them in the future.

While calculating TCV from historical spending is simple, doing so does not value the customer based on the number of people they’ve told about your product and the resulting money these people spend. Yet people who convince others to buy your product can be more valuable than big-spending customers.

If Walt Mossberg — the technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal — buys your gadget, he’s likely to be your most important customer for years even if he never buys from you again. Mossberg’s true TCV should be off the charts! Mossberg is an example of an influencer.

Influencers are a small group of customers that have the potential to act as evangelists of your product. In cases where these influencers have bad experiences, they might actively tell people to avoid you (or actively protest your company).

Companies that understand the power of influencers are now proactively targeting them. FastCompany reported that marketers spend over $1 billion annually on campaigns targeting influencers – a figure growing 36% a year. But few companies have any idea who their influencers are and what to do once they have found them.

Identifying Influencers

Determining who is an influencer isn’t easy. Anywhere from 1% to 10% of your consumers are influencers. Below are some of the metrics Rapleaf uses to find influencers for our customers:
1.) Friend count. Someone with a lot of friends (online or offline) is more likely to be an influencer since they have more reach than the average person and can propagate their message to influence more people. People with many Twitter followers, readers of their RSS feed, friends on Facebook, or interactions on forums are all good candidates. While friend count is certainly a crude metric — there are many people with a large number of friends that are not influential — it is a quick and easy way to segment your customers and it actually works quite well.

Last year, we conducted a study on 31 million people analyzing friendships on social networks. Results of the study suggest that almost 20% of users had over 100 online friends, while a tiny fraction of users (<1%) are “super connectors” with over 1,000 friends. Imagine the reverberating effects of mobilizing these people. These are the customers you’d want to target with exclusive offers, benefits, etc.


2.) Social persuasion. Let’s assume John says he loves an obscure band on his MySpace page that none of his friends talk about. Then, two months later, 30 of his friends also list that band as one of their favorites. While it’s possible that John is an early adopter or that he just happened to listen to the band before they made it big, it’s much more likely that he is an influencer and told his friends.

Unfortunately, measuring social persuasion is not easy and can be quite expensive from a data-collection perspective. One way to gauge persuasion is to take snapshots of a person’s information at periodic intervals. By juxtaposing changes in information (such as music interests) alongside a social graph (who he is friends with), one can infer whether the person under consideration is influencer or more likely to be influenced. If a bunch of your friends buy the same product as you in the next few weeks after your purchase (which might be a six sigma event), there is a strong likelihood that you told your friends about it.

3.) Influence context measurement. Just because someone is an influencer in books doesn’t mean they are also an influencer in electronics. Matt Hurst of Data Mining blog looked at the categories of influence in the blogosphere and found that influence is a function of not only reach but also subject matter. Looking at the linking of blogs, Hurst found that Om Malik, for instance, has reach in the tech space, whereas Michelle Malkin has reach in the socio-political arena. On the other hand, Jeff Jarvis is influential on both tech and socio-political issues. Since influence depends on both reach and context and all three of these bloggers differ on both fronts, they are influential in different ways.


Some people will always be influencers – it is part of who they are – while others are influencers due to their current position (careerwise, within an organization, etc.). And that position might not be obvious. One wouldn’t think of a personal assistant as being an influencer but Reggie Love talks to the most powerful person in the world twenty times a day — he is President Obama’s personal assistant.


Influencers = $$$

After identifying influencers, how can you encourage them to promote your product? Here are some suggestions:
1.) Give them the best service. United Airlines provides frequent flyers with a special number to call and an exclusive web site to shop at. American Express offers their big spenders a distinct credit card with incredible perks including a dedicated concierge and travel agent, a personal shopper at upscale stores, first class flight upgrades, and no preset spending limits. You can do something similar with influencers.

You can put your influencers at the top of the customer service queue. Or have an executive personally call and thank them for being a customer. Retailers might consider sending hand-written “thank you” notes or providing priority shipping free of charge. In turn, influencers will tell their friends about you.

2.) Show appreciation. One way of making customers feel appreciated is by asking for feedback. Before finalizing a new product, get input from your influencers. Bare Escentuals does this for new cosmetic products. If you’re not soliciting feedback, at least give them sneak previews to new products. In return for showing appreciation, you can leverage focus panels and get critical input at no cost.

3.) Offer coupons and special discounts. Providing coupons and special discounts is a proactive form of customer service and marketing. Retailers can offer their top influencers unique promotions to keep them content and engaged.

4.) Employ special outreach. Rather than just sending influencers the standard newsletter, some political campaigns have interns reach out to influencers directly. Cultivating influencers give campaigns significant leverage to spread positive news about their candidate (and unflattering profiles of their opponents). Companies should follow suit to nourish their own evangelist network.

Now all we have to do is get companies to wake up and smell the coffee. Anyone willing to influence them?

(special thanks to Vivek Sodera and Michael Hsu for their help putting this together)
(if you like this, please send it to a friend)

See comments and comment yourself here or at: Summation blog on influencers

It Seemed Like A Beautiful Day

July 21, 2009 Leave a comment

How to Lose Your Perfect Candidate and Feel Like a Dope

by John Wentworth
Wentworth Recruiting

View bio here

Sponsored by Compendium 2009

“It’s a beautiful day,” Jim, the Recruiting Director of Acceleration Service said to himself as he walked from one building to the next. It was. The sun was shining, the temperature mild and the day was bathed in a gentle breeze.

“And it seems like a fine work day,” he said to himself next. He knew of nothing wrong. All the divisions were on plan with their recruiting. His teams were happy and engaged and their hiring managers were content.

“So why am I trying to talk myself into this?” he wondered.

The answer came when his cell phone rang.

When the call was over, he just sat down on a bench, looked to the sky and muttered, “I am such a dumb piece of dirt.” The sky seemed as if it had clouded over and the air gotten 15 degrees colder. All his earlier contentment was gone.

He had been personally recruiting to fill a critical job…for himself…a recruiting manager for a new division Acceleration had recently acquired. Part of Jim’s technique, and the technique he taught his team, was to close every attractive candidate in every conversation. His theory was that you want every candidate you might possibly want to hire to want you. In each conversation, he closed them a little more. By the time he got to a couple of conversations from making the offer, he had candidates closed, committed and ready to go, making the offer letter just a formality.

He had done that with this person, a very bright, hard driving and wonderfully skilled recruiting manager from a competitor of the purchased unit. She knew the industry, where to find the candidates and how to assess them. She also knew some of the hiring managers, other individuals who had moved her from company to Jim’s division.

Jim had a solid commitment from the candidate. She was being wooed by another company but had said unequivocally that she preferred Acceleration. Jim was under the impression that the candidate must have said something to the other company because they seemed to be backing off…by her telling of the story.

This call had been a reference, an individual from a third company in that same company that had been trying to hire his candidate. The reference had worked with her a few years before. Jim was being a little mischievous by seeking a reference from the company he had been competing with for the candidate, but she had given the reference’s name to Jim and approved his calling the guy.

“I’m really surprised that you asked about her,” the had told Jim a few minutes before Jim found himself sitting dejected on the bench.

“Why’s that?” Jim asked him.

“Well, I understood that she had accepted a job with our company yesterday.”

“You’re kidding,” Jim stuttered, knowing the reference was not.

Jim did what he could to get out of the conversation with his pride at least in part intact, and then sat down on the bench.

And then his phone rang again. It was his candidate. It was a difficult conversation. Jim was mad and embarrassed. Plus, the job was now open again.

“As it turns out, I never really had a chance,” Jim told Sarah Hockney, the general manager of this new division. She had been transferred from the division that provided Jim office space, and he had done a lot of work for her. They had become friends.

“How is it that you never hand a chance?” Sarah asked Jim.

“The president of her new employer called her directly to ask her to forget us and go with them. He’s not just the president of the company; he’s a relative of her husband’s. So her choice was me or a guy who could turn her entire in-law clan into her enemies.”

“So why are you so glum and confessing your sins to me?” she asked.

“Because I did not do it right. I did not set the example for my troops. Not only did the search not work, not only did I make an ass of myself to the reference, but I also will look really stupid to my troops. Hard to inspire confidence making sophomoric mistakes.”

“What mistake?”

“I didn’t defend against this.”

“I thought you told me that she had committed, that you’d closed her.”

“She had. I did. But the controller of our new division was behind the curve in so far as the budgeting for this job was concerned. They had to get the funding sorted out before we could make the formal offer.”

“You had no control over that.”

“True. And I told the candidate what was going on, but I did not call her every day. I relied on her word. I did not defend against a full court press from someone else.”

“Like this guy, but also from her company. They could have countered, too, no?”

“Yes, and there’s a whole technique of anticipatory defense against counters.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s the very simple sharing of the observation that, while the current employer may think that you are very important and wonderful now, and worth all this extra money now, how sincere can they be when they did not think any of those things before they heard you were going to leave? And if they are not sincere, is it not reasonable to think that they are recruiting your replacement right now? They don’t care about you. They just want your leaving to be on their terms and their timing, not yours. And if you do stay, how does your manager feel about your loyalty? Will you ever be in her or his good graces, really?”

“And you say that to the candidate?”

“Again and again, before they get our offer. Again when we present the offer. And again and again as we talk to them through their notice period. We rehearse with them what the company is going to say, how they feel when they hear that, what they are going to say in response, how they feel when they say that, etc. We also start getting them into the email traffic from their new department, and we get their new boss to call them, so they start of feel that they belong with us. We work hard to build the emotional connections during the notice period.”

“So what did you do with this young woman you are so anguished about?”

“Not enough. I did not talk to her every day. I did not ask what else was going on. I did not ask if her employer was proposing a counter offer. I did not ask what was happening with her new employer. I did get her into the email stream. And I did talk to her, but not often enough. It’s a stupid, sophomore move. I feel very stupid.”

“You are.”


Sarah smiled. “Being concerned, as I am, about your state of mind and emotional well-being, I want you to feel good about your analysis. You are right. You screwed up.”

“Your kindness overwhelms me,” Jim smiled back.

“However, I’ve known you for a long time. This division that I’ve been given like a bad white elephant gift, that I’ve been given to integrate into Mother Acceleration Service, that I’ve been given to fix, turnaround and do major surgery on. It will be fine, in great part because, while you do not yet have a halo or wings, and you occasionally screw up, you will support the person who replaces this person and your team will fill our halls with some of the best people available.

“I’m actually happy that she’s not coming because of how she handled it. She should have called you when she got the big call from her in-law and worked the problem with you. Her not doing so suggests a certain lack of understanding how teamwork actually works and that, were she still coming, would make me worry about her.

“So get out of here and find a replacement. I’ll bet you a coffee that you have the job re-filled within a week.”

“Thanks for the pressure.”

“Now it’s time for you to leave and go feel sorry for yourself in someone else’s office.”

Jim did. The first thing he did was tell everyone what happened. He wanted to support his reputation of being forthright by telling everyone in sight. They were, to a person, understanding and supportive. That felt good.

As Sarah had predicted, he started to get referrals that had not arrived during the first part of the search and were of better people. This was good because one of the consequences of the first part of the search is that the candidate he tried to hire was so much better than the others in the pool, that the others had lost their luster. Normally, Jim had one or more back up candidates for every job. But his lead candidate made the back up candidates back up candidates no more.

But the referrals were great. “I should write this down,” Jim thought to himself: “Sympathy produces great referrals. I can use that.” By the end of the week, he had a great candidate who wanted the job and had just come back to the area and was, therefore, available!

Jim walked into Sarah’s office. “Done! You owe me coffee.”

“Really?” She smiled. “How about now?” She reached for her purse.

“Now is great.”

As they walked to get coffee, Jim told Sarah how the new hire had come to happen. It was raining, so they had to trot to the next building to keep from getting soaked.

Even though they ran, they were good and wet when they trotted through the door. “It’s a beautiful day, don’t you think?” Jim said with a big grin on his face.

“It is a beautiful day. And I believe it will be all week,” Sarah replied and she patted him on the back, “because of the good job you did.”

All Jim had to say was, “Whew! Too close for comfort!”

Why Hiring is Paradoxically Harder in a Downturn

July 14, 2009 2 comments

by Auren Hoffman
Read bio here

Sponsored by Compendium 2009

Why hiring is paradoxically harder in a downturn
Noise goes up but the quality stays the same
Hiring is always hard. The hardest thing to do at a company is the recruiting and hiring. It was really hard when the economy was doing well. Paradoxically, for certain industries (especially those reliant on innovation such as those in the tech space), it’s even harder when times are tough.

That’s right … hiring in tough economic times can actually be much harder than when times are good. In a downturn, the amount of resumes from C-Players massively increases while the amount of resumes from A-Players probably remains the same.

Never settle

First, let’s assume you’ve already bought into the “When Good Isn’t Good Enough” philosophy of always trying to hire A-players because they are just so much more productive than B-players (an ‘A-Player’ by definition is incredibly productive and smart and has that ‘it’, that rockstar-esque factor that makes everyone want to work with her). That means you won’t settle for people who are good but instead hold out for people that are great.

Great people – the A-Players – are a very different breed from the good (B-Players) and mediocre (C-Players). Great people are more likely to be employed with a company since a great person is often over 3 times as productive as a good person. Joel Spolsky argues in Smart & Gets Things Done that an A-player is anywhere from 5-10 times as productive. Joel looked at coursework data from a Yale computer science class and found that the fastest students finished their workload as much as ten times faster than the slowest students (average was 3-4 times faster).

Spolsky, Joel. Smart & Get Things Done. Berkeley, CA: Apress, 2007. p 6.

The (Un)Employed A-Player

In troubled economic times, anyone can get laid off, but a disproportionate number of layoffs tend to fall on C-players. This is because they are the lowest performing people in a company and there generally are more C-players at a company than any other caliber. Note that this isn’t always true, as evidenced with Yahoo!, a company that has recently experienced many layoffs but doesn’t have many C-players. In Yahoo!’s case, majority of the lay-offs fell on B-players and even some A-players. Yahoo! is an exception and is an exceptional company — most large companies, however, are chock-full of C-players.

A smart company would (or should) never lay off a great person unless her/his job function is eliminated. For instance, if a smart company had to lay off one of two software engineers with one being great and other being good, it will very likely lay off the good engineer and retain the great one (and might even give the great person a raise). Again, this is the logic that smart companies should follow. Then again, there are many dim-witted companies that lay off their great people for odd reasons and so you’ll find some great people out of those laid off.

Where to find that A-player

Some A-players are less likely to be looking to jump ship during tough times due to a risk adverse profile, security, financial reasons, or other reasons. They are happy where they are and more likely to hunker-down in tough times. On the flipside there are A-players that are MORE likely to leave. Tough times often paint companies into a corner and force them into maintenance mode rather than continuing to innovate. Great players love to innovate and usually NEED to innovate. It’s usually very hard to keep these type of A-players caged-up and thus this presents a big opportunity for recruiting.

For instance, in the past it was really hard to hire great software engineers out of financial behemoths like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and JP Morgan Chase. These companies have outstanding people and pay these people really well (often 50% above the salary at a tech company). Nowadays, even if these people have not been laid off, the great people are going to be leaving in droves. Why? Because in the next two years, it is really doubtful they will be doing anything remotely innovative. Instead they will be maintaining current systems due to the understaffed and underfunded technology departments. No fun there so expect a big exodus out of these companies.

It’s also worth noting that great people are often first to leave sinking ships. They don’t feel they need to stick around for a severance because they are confident they can always get another job.

How to deal with the paradox

Let’s face it, these great, A-Player type people are just really hard to find. Let’s say for sake of argument that A-players make up 1% of the population that could do the job, B-players are 19%, and C-players comprise the other 80%. It’s uncertain if these percentages are accurate, but there definitely are more C-Players than B-players and more B-players than A-players. Now if people find out you are hiring (through a Craigslist ad, posted on careers page, etc.), it probably means you are going to get a massive influx of resumes from C-players. Many of these resumes will be indistinguishable from those of A-players (it’s always hard to distinguish on paper). Which means the amount of noise (aka undesirable hires) will likely increase. Which means more work sifting through these resumes and talking to many more people.

It’s important to screen for great people in order to turn the volume down on all the noise.

Unfortunately, it is really hard to tell the difference between an A-player, B-player, or C-player just from a resume. Which means you need to engage with candidates and therefore you’ll have far more candidates to deal with given this economic climate. My guess – for a standard job announcement, you’ll have three times the number of C-players applying, twice the number of B-players, and the same number of A-players. Wow…your noise level has just massively increased!


At Rapleaf for instance, we have a written one-hour technical interview as the first screen for resumes we like. Last year, our pass-rate for the test was 17% … meaning 17% of the candidates passed the written interview and moved on to a second round (a live chat with a Rapleaf engineer). Today our pass rate is about 6-8%. Our noise level has really increased.

One way to decrease the noise level (and thereby increase the amount of quality) is to specifically target candidates rather than to post a job ad. I would suggest targeting a company you think has great people, call into that company, and try convincing the talent to meet with you. I know if I was based in Manhattan and was recruiting software engineers, I’d be calling on the people in the top banks. While not everyone at a top bank is a great player, your ratio of great-to-good is going to go up substantially (assuming they haven’t already left).

Of course, not every position is harder to hire in this downtown. It is easier to find great people whose industries have been totally decimated by this recession. You’re in luck if you are looking to hire investment bankers, corporate lawyers, construction workers, or people in manufacturing.

This downturn looks to affect us all for the next couple years, so be sure to fill your company with only A-players and thereby creating your own A-Team.

mr. t image

The Bad and the Ugly – Violence at Work

July 8, 2009 Leave a comment

By David Bush
Read bio here

HR Leadership Sponsor

The Wall Street Journal has just emailed the following:

“Police continued to surround a building in downtown Binghamton, N.Y., after a gunman shot at least four people and kept more than 40 people trapped inside, local media reported, amid fears of fatalities. A man went into the building and started shooting around 10:30 a.m., local media reported, citing police scanners. The building is home to the American Civic Association, which assists immigrants with counseling and citizenship, according to its Web site.”

As I write this, the news on the radio is telling us that the hostage situation remains unresolved.

Perhaps it has started. The uptick in the frequency of work place violence that has been associated with economic downturns seems overdue. Yesterday, I was conferring with a colleague who has shared my interest in Work Place Violence for many years. We know that most workplace violence consists of non-fatal bullying and harassment, including such problems as being bitten by patients, being intimidated and threatened, or being stalked. But when people are stabbed or shot, the press wakes up with cameras and lights, and alarms us with stories of multiple murders in classrooms or postal stations or human resource departments. My colleague and I have consulted with companies attempting to prevent such events, and we have noted that fewer organizations attempt to prevent such behaviors than those who succeed in ignoring them.

Will the current recession lead to elevated rates of homicide at work? Will the outrage with Mr. Madoff lead to attacks on him and other Ponzis? Will people who are associated with the perception of undeserved bonus payments become the victims of disturbed murderers? Are the politicians and members of the press who appear to demonize people who can be blamed for the economic “down-turn” risking a stampede akin to those that may result from shouting “fire” in a theatre?

We live in a country that has a history of righteous violence such as riots and lynching. When many feel threatened and under attack, the potential for such behaviors appears to have been elevated in the past and we would not be surprised if history repeats. Do you hear people making remarks that sound like scapegoating? Who started this mess? Who will be blamed?

Perhaps we need to anticipate the potential for such problems and start to build early warning systems to prevent such bad and ugly events. Some organizations have created violence prevention committees led by representatives of HR, security, safety and legal. They create a form of “rumor central”, a clearing house for information about potential danger. Unlike the failure to share information that led to the 9/11 disaster, this approach encourages having critical information flow to the four person committee that consists of the top decision makers in HR, Legal, Security and Safety. This system also ensures that policies and procedures will be up-to-date on such issues as “you may not bring weapons to work.” On the latter issue, however, be sure to examine your state laws, since some states have laws that “protect your right to bring guns to work”. You may also wish to examine how secure your building entrances are. Can armed non-employees easily invade the company buildings? Are doors intended to be locked fire doors left unlocked for the use of smokers? Can anyone who knows this simply come in the back door? I have seen such high risk activities. The sooner they are fixed the better. Let’s hope that there is no uptick in violence at work. If there is, we all may ask to work from home. But that is another article.

The Downfall of My Favorite Restaurant

July 7, 2009 Leave a comment


by Eric Herrenkohl
Herrenkohl Consulting

Read bio here

I went to my favorite restaurant in West Philly yesterday for lunch. I found this place a couple of years ago. The food was phenomenal and it was always packed with Penn students and faculty. Business was good enough that, this past summer, they closed down for a month and did a complete renovation. They gutted the place, redid the dining room, and brought the décor of the restaurant up to the level of the great food they served.

There is only one problem: yesterday, the food was mediocre. Some of their best dishes were missing from the menu, and the food was not up to its usual level. It was on the whole a very average dining experience. I sat in the restaurant and thought to myself: you can do whatever you want to the decorations, to the point-of-sale system, even to the staff. But the food had better be excellent. Because it was not yesterday, I am on the lookout for a new restaurant.

Performance Principle: Understanding what makes a fantastic customer experience and creating that experience every time is one of the secrets to a successful business. In the end, if you create a fundamentally strong customer experience, you can make a lot of other mistakes and still survive. Conversely, you can do all the peripheral things well, but if your customer experience is lousy, your business is in trouble. Here are some points to consider in this light:

Are you doing fundamentally high-quality work? If you are selling computer supplies, do the right products arrive at your customer and do they arrive on time? If you are selling professional services, do you create the results your customer is looking for? If you sell kitchen & bath remodeling, do your clients get the kitchen of their dreams for a price they can afford? These are the fundamental value propositions of your business. While there are things you can do above and beyond these deliverables to turbo-charge a business, you won’t be around to do them if you are not delivering on the fundamentals.

Every business rises and falls on word-of-mouth. We all want to make buying decisions based on the reference of people we trust. To the extent that your customers are singing your praises, you will maintain strong revenues and profitability. In order to guarantee this, you have to make sure that everyone in your business is committed every day to making the basic quality and delivery of your product excellent. You must ensure that the customer experience surrounding the purchase and use of your product is extraordinary.

There is nothing more important than serving customers. In some businesses, employees want to “graduate” from serving customers to doing more “professional” things like buying product, talking to vendors, or creating marketing events. Of course those things are good, but you need a business filled with people who have a passion for serving the customer. That should be the best job in your company.
Business is simple, but not easy. Make sure that the fundamental customer experience around which your business is built is getting better every day. If you do this, good things happen.