How often do you hear, “Look, you guys are all the same. You all have the same quality and delivery, there is no difference between you and the other guy, and so I’m just going on price. You’re all building the same product anyway, so what does it matter?” Or maybe you’ve heard, “I can get my boards anywhere I want; it doesn’t matter if it’s here or 5,000 miles away. I’ll get them sooner or later anyway.”
You hear this pretty often, right?
So, let me ask you this: How often do you sit down with your team and brainstorm how to improve your product? How do you make it so good that people will only want to buy from you?
Here’s another question: Do you ever ask yourself, “What exactly is my product?” Is it the board itself? The packaging? The service? Is it the way you answer the phone? Are you flexible and easy to deal with? Is it the way you strive to accommodate your customers no matter what their needs are?
How often does your team talk about how to make your product better, and how to make your boards outstanding (if that’s your business)?
From my own experience, I would say it is next to never. Most companies are so busy just barely meeting their customers’ requirements that they seldom spend any time improving so that they will be so outstanding, so great, that customers will only want to buy your product. Your customers will love you so much they will act as your ambassadors by telling everyone about you. Why? Because they feel it reflects well on them: they’re smart enough to work with you! Doesn’t happen that often, does it?
In fact, in most instances, we are on pins and needles because our customer relationships are so fragile that they can be taken away in an instant with just the slash of a price from a competitor. Pretty scary, huh? Most of the time, companies are running scared knowing that one false move, one lower price from a competitor, and they are out on their butt.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the price of mediocrity. In the words of Henry Ford, “Mediocrity is the enemy of prosperity.” Bishop Fulton Sheen said, “Jealousy is the tribute mediocrity pays to genius.”
Are you mediocre? Do you feel that good enough is good enough? Maybe that’s the reason you are just holding on by your fingernails.
Isn’t it time you ask yourself, “Is this all there is? Is this all that I can expect? To lead this life of desperation hoping that no one comes along and steals my customers?” Isn’t it time you took a stand and stopped that insanity?
Steve Jobs and his team sat around for hours figuring out how to produce the best products the world has ever seen. He and his chief designer would spend hours on the boxes that their products came in. The boxes! They would study and experiment with the way the cover slid down onto the box, and their effort paid off. I am surrounded by empty Apple product boxes that I cannot bear to throw away. Compare that to the feeling you get opening an HP cartridge. If you’re like me, you find that it’s aggravating as heck to have to destroy the package to get to the cartridge.
That’s just one small thing, but it’s the small things that make big differences. It’s those small things that make Apple practically a cult, with people standing in line to get their next new thing. Wouldn’t you like to be like that? Wouldn’t you love to have your customers so blinded by your magnificence that they cannot even name your competitor, never mind be tempted to use your competitor for their products.
Now, I can hear you whining, “But I’m a job shop. I build someone else’s products. Apple does not apply to me or any of my competitors.”
Really? Are you serious? Why don’t you ask yourself, “What would Steve Jobs do if he owned your company?” Do you think he would be happy to thrive in mediocrity? Do you think he would be happy to live in fear because the product was so blah that anyone could step into your space and walk away with your customer base? Be honest with yourself; you know in your heart of hearts he would find a way to make your product so much better that customers want to work with you, would stand in line to work with you.
Don’t kid yourself; you know I’m right. Next week, I’ll talk about how you can think like the Steve Jobs of your industry, how you can build products that will put a dent in the world. Stay tuned.
It’s only common sense.
Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group.