Jose Palomino

From the yearly archives:

2009

Imagine you are Ivan G. Seidenberg, Verizon Wireless’ CEO, and all you hear from your friends and Wall Street is, “Why don’t you have an iPhone?” You realize it probably would be really neat to have the iPhone, the hottest and clear standard bearer for smartphones in the world today. But you don’t have it, although you do have many other products. And as you survey your services, you realize that what you DO have is a Great Network.

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Recently I read an article on a device called a Roku (I think, as in “we will Rock You!”) a very innovative, indispensable, and frankly inspirational value prop in the world of video. It is about the size of a five-pack of CDs. And it connects my TV to a huge library of movies and television shows. The initial attraction to the device is it can stream movies from Netflix.

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Here’s the thing: I was commenting to the two guys from Lowe’s that assisted us on how great their service was. Specifically, I noted how different Lowe’s was from Home Depot in terms of customer service and how helpful they are. One of them, Tom, said something to me that was very telling. He said, “Although I work for Lowe’s, I’m also a contractor, and for that, I use Home Depot.” Here’s a guy who clearly enjoyed his job and enjoyed helping customers – who did not seem to have “an ax to grind” with his employer – but who was simply telling me something in a matter-of-fact way.

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Great ideas would still fail to attract an audience – money and energy wasted.

Not only money and energy wasted – but also an old way of doing things. What else needed to change? For over 50 years, companies involved in complex or big-ticket sales have dichotomized “developing the message” and “delivering the message”. Even companies that derive the majority of their revenue from their direct sales channel rarely ask their sales teams, “What’s happening out there?” – relying instead on traditional market research and industry experts. Is this a wrong practice? Marketing experts are not typically sales professionals and the converse is usually true. That wasn’t the issue nagging at me. What was “off” was this: why not take advantage of the intense customer-facing resource that is your direct sales force for real-time market intelligence?

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A recent article in the WSJ, “Slicing the Bread But Not the Prices”, discussed the Panera Bread company.

The title line read, “While rival rest offer discounts, Panera focuses on employed eaters willing to spend.”

Wow! What a focused target market statement. And – the secret to why Panera is growing in stores opened over a year, where Cosi, a competitor that most casual observers put in the same category, reported a loss of $969,000 for its second quarter and a 14% decline in revenue.

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For the thrid year in a row, the Wall Street Journal and Winning Workplaces have teamed up to identify the top small-to-midsize business.

Among the small-to-midsize companies that were highlighted in this article, a common thread emerges:

Commitment to “strong people practices” in the workplace creates a better work environment, and in turn reduces turnover, increases retention, and facilitates satisfied and happy employees.

Inside these successful companies – there’s a lot of discussion, and a lot of time spent with people – breakfast meetings, annual meetings, idea sharing, etc. All this internal activity pulls together to make a better work environment, which manifests itself in the quality of service the company provides, and in the positive image the company is able to sustain – whcih translates to growth and revenue, even in a tough business environment. These companies have figured out how to maintain “service with a smile.”

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Today, I know that these memories are shared by many thousands of other business leaders in high-tech and other “soon-to-be revolutionized” industries of what is now referred to as the “dot bomb.” Since that time, I asked myself – and anyone who would listen – what was there to learn from this incredibly expensive education. [...]

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I’ve been following the New York Times’ video series on Small Business Weathers the Recession.

This fascinating video series examines real life businesses in NYC who are doing everything they can think of to survive during our economic recession.

I’m a business owner, and I work with growing businesses as well as large corporations via my training and consulting work, which is built on the core ideas in my book, Value Prop. I think it’s wonderful that the New York Times is covering real life, real businesses.

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