Does everyone who works with you understand what business you are in?

There is a story about a man in Chicago who was rather wealthy and interested in boats.  His interest was in more than bass boats. He was interested in large boats, ocean-going blue water yachts and had the money to buy them.  As he looked through a boating magazine he found one he liked listed for sale at more than $100,000.

He called the boating company to see if it was still available and when he could look at it. The time was about 4:00 pm when he called.  He was leaving later that afternoon on a business trip, however.  When the man called, he reached a receptionist who informed him they had the boat.  However, she told him, the company closed at 5:00 pm. and the office would be closed by the time he could get there.  The man was very disappointed and left on his business trip later that evening.

While the man was on his business trip, he called the boat company again.  This time he managed to get past the receptionist and spoke with the sales manager.  The potential buyer told the sales manager about the particular boat he wanted to buy.  The manager assured him they still had the boat.  They made an appointment for the buyer to look at the boat when he arrived back in town. 

While they were on the phone, he told the sales manager what had happened on the day he originally wanted to see the boat.  He related the story how the receptionist told him they closed at 5:00 pm and that, though he wanted to, he couldn’t see the boat that day. 

As soon as he hung up the phone, the sales manager called the receptionist into his office.  He asked her, “Do you understand what business we are in?  We are in the business of selling boats.  If we don’t sell any boats, we don’t make any money.  If we don’t make any money, you don’t have a job.  The          only reason that you exist, the only reason that this company exists is to access people to the boats that they want to buy.”

Incredibly, the receptionist said, “I didn’t understand that.”  She failed to understand her particular role in that company.  That she was there only to facilitate people, to access them to what it was that they wanted.  She thought that she was the protector of the phone lines.  She viewed herself as the guardian at the door.

She considered herself to be responsible.  She thought what she had done was the responsible thing to do.  It didn’t matter that it could have cost the company thousands of dollars in commissions and certainly cost them in public relations.  She did not understand her role in relation to the organization that she worked for. 

So, what business are you in? HINT: It is almost certainly problem solving. When I owned a millwork company I explained to everyone who worked there that we are in the business of solving problems for our clients. They have a need for a piece of furniture, matching trim, a custom fixture, or a place where the visual or utilitarian appeal is deficient and we can fix that problem by our design and production facilities. Continuing on with the concept, ours was a high-end business. We did not market and we did not try to compete on price. Some companies do and if that fits your business model, there is nothing wrong with that. My business model was to market to a small but well-heeled market share by producing outstanding work in a timely manner at a price that reflects the quality of component and construction our clients want and deserve.

Restaurant owners provide more than food. They provide a dining experience whether it be fast food or fine dining, they deliver for their clients the food and beverages the client wants to buy in the manner and atmosphere he wants to purchase it in.

Someone once asked the CEO of Rolex “How goes the watch business?” His answer? “I have not the slightest idea.” Why? Because he is not in the business of selling watches. Rolex and other luxury product manufacturers are selling much more than the product the consumer buys. They sell the cache’ that their product has come to represent.

In the 1950’s luxury car manufacturer Packard abandoned their cache’ and began selling just cars. In less than 5 years the company was gone.

In the 1970’s General Motors, headed at that time by an accountant, thought they needed to be in the business of selling a cheap car. What the consumer wanted was an inexpensive car. GM produced some of the worst cars in its history in those days because they lost track of what their business was.

What business are you in? Take ten minutes right now and write out your definition of your business. For help, here was mine at my millwork business: To provide for our clients outstanding work delivered in a timely manner at a price that reflects the quality of components and construction our clients want and deserve.

Next, are you certain that everyone who works for you understands what business you are in? If not, how will you bring them up to speed?

Please pass this along to someone you know that could benefit from it?

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