balance in relationships

Balance in Relationships

Recently, I was speaking with a woman who shared an experience with a landlord. He was frustrated that she wasn’t contributing more and she was frustrated that he raised her rent. When we talked further, it became clear she had a significantly below market rent. It was clear the landlord was frustrated she didn’t appreciate what he was doing for her. She does a lot of upkeep and provides services that are not normal in a rental relationship. She thinks he may not be aware or appreciate all she does.

These sorts of situations happen all the time in business. Each party feels like they are making significant contributions to the relationship that aren’t appreciated by the other side. Many times, the other party may not even be aware of those contributions. And other times, the contributions aren’t valued because they aren’t needed or wanted. The key to a balanced relationship is understanding the contributions of each party and how those contributions are valued.

details matter

Getting the details right

The people who designed my house really paid attention to the details. Arches appear throughout the house to divide spaces. They also appear on the doors and above the tv/fireplace. Elements repeat through sinks, faucets, trim and molding, and kitchen cabinets. Same with color schemes and tiles. The attention to detail makes the house feel cohesive.

While people don’t always know why, they notice when details are in place or when they are missing. They feel something is off or that they are getting a complete package. Details matter. They elevate the experience and create an environment where people want to be or create products people want to have.

quality vs customer service

Quality vs. Customer Service

After years and years of buying avocados, I’ve recently had a run of quality issues. Somehow they manage to be spoiled and hard at the same time. So I explained what was going on to the produce manager at the store. She shared that I wasn’t the only one who was having problems and that they would continue to replace them until it was right. Great!

There’s a balance between customer service and quality control in business. If quality is poor, continuing to replace a product can get very expensive.  And frustrating for customers who continue to experience defects. Over the long run, businesses that have quality controls on the front end and customer feedback loops on the backend will eliminate defects and become more profitable.

they don't make them like they used to

They don’t make them like they used to

You know that one box that hangs out long after a move? For me, it was in the garage and had a bunch of old work swag. This weekend, I finally got around to dealing with it. Tucked inside, was a box with a bunch of old pens, pencils and highlighters. They had been there a really, really long time. So, they must be dead, right? But to my surprise, most of them worked like new. They were designed to last.

So many things these days have a short life span. And for some things, that approach makes sense. But other times, customers expect the quality and longevity they think they are paying for. Those that deliver on it will be successful over the long term.

stuck in the middle

Stuck in the Middle

Socks shouldn’t be so hard. But for some reason they are. I guess it is because the sock company decided to have four sizes to fit every size for men and women. And I fall right smack in the middle of two different sizes. One is too small, the other is too big. It didn’t used to be that way. They used to fit perfectly. But now, I’m stuck in the middle with something that doesn’t really work anymore.

And that sort of situation happens all the time in business. The product maybe used to work, but doesn’t anymore. Or, it never really did and people are making due. But there’s some aspect that even with the current issues keeps them there. Until they leave. And that’s the challenge for companies. To find out what isn’t working to get any gaps or deficiencies closed.

understand the product

Understanding the Product

At a recent event, lunch was sandwiches. After an untimely burst appendix while in Turkey, gluten no longer likes me. So, I asked if there was a salad or a gluten free sandwich option. A few minutes later, a gluten free sandwich appeared. And unfortunately, there was a heavy layer of mayo on the bread. Not a big deal with regular bread. But if you’ve ever had gluten free bread, you know it falls apart easily, and especially quickly with sauces and spreads. Which creates a big mess. People who work with the product regularly usually put the condiments on the side for this reason.

A lot of products look alike. And many people believe that the function is the same. But little differences in design can make a huge difference in functionality. The trick in business is understanding the needs of the customer and making sure the product is fit for use.

explosive growth

Explosive Growth

For months, the forest was dormant. The evergreen trees were green, but everything else that has leaves seasonally were bare. No ferns, no small plants that line the floor. Just the look of winter. Then all of a sudden, the temperature went from lows in the 30’s and highs in the 50’s to 90 degree highs with lows in the high 50’s. And the forest exploded. What was bare filled in within a two week timeframe. The conditions were present for explosive growth and that’s what happened.

The same conditions can happen in business too. Things chug along at with a regular, predictable pace. Then something changes, creating an environment for explosive growth. The trick is watching closely enough to know when that change is about to occur and position for it.

are old rules being updated to reflect new conditions?

Pictures, Tom Hanks and Marketing

Tom Hanks was in town last week to give a talk about his new novel. As he walked out onto the stage, people clapped and got their phones out to take a picture. The security staff and ushers swarmed the aisles telling people not to take photos. The commotion lasted about 5 minutes before everything settled down and the program got underway.

Why no pictures? It was just a curtain, two chairs, a table with the book displayed, Tom Hanks and the person discussing the book with him. The point of doing book talks is to generate a buzz and get more people to buy the book. And social media is a great way for people to share a picture and get the word out. The old rules seem to be at odds with the new way of marketing.

There’s probably some explanation for why this tradition is still in place. But sometimes old rules stick around because no-one challenges them and updates them for the current environment. And that leads to suboptimal performance.

when the extraordinary becomes ordinary

When the Extraordinary becomes Ordinary

I was in Washington DC last week and was able to see the cherry blossoms at their peak. Stunning! All of the hotels in the area were booked with people coming to see the blossoms. And yet, for the people living there, many have seen the sight for so many years, it is no longer a big deal. The extraordinary that people travel to see has become ordinary.

It’s part of human nature that people adapt to their surroundings. And as leaders, when we are in the middle of something special, it is our responsibility to remind people that what is going on is extraordinary and not to lose sight of it. Otherwise, over time, the thing that attracts people will get lost and become ordinary.

Coming soon

“Coming Soon”

The neighborhood park has been under construction for almost a year. There was a pause in the fall and winter awaiting material deliveries. Then a couple of weeks ago, fencing went up around what will be the playground area and construction resumed. It was like a big “coming soon” sign was on display. People came by to find out what was going on and observe the installation.

There’s nothing like a “coming soon” display when people are excited by what is coming. Think about announcements you’ve heard lately that got you excited for a movie, a tv show, or a park. Are you creating that same sort of excitement in your business?