Tag: customers

If you can’t tie your own shoelaces…

Don’t tell the most sought-after shoemaker in town how to do their job.

I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with folks who couldn’t tie their own shoelaces, but were quick to judge how long everything takes and how much it is worth for you to do it for them. That phenomena is particularly prevalent in the technology world – many think it all comes easy. I could say the same about business process re-engineering, developing compensation plans, and even creating financial projections. On the latter, I was once ask to do the same, only to find the company didn’t maintain standard double-entry accounting records – they kept track of their finances by dumping their checking account statements from the internet. I had no problem with that – the business was new, short staffed, and growing like wildfire. What I did have a problem with was facing incredulity, skepticism, and downright rude behaviour when I told them it might make sense to get past books and records together before looking to the future. And it got worse – once convincing them of that need, I had to take the same beating again when I asked them where the invoices and payables files were.

The folks from Electric Pulp, a development firm out of South Dakota that has been on a bit of a roll lately, have taken a different approach to the “can’t tie their own shoelaces crowd”: they posted some of their more outlandish technology related inquiries on their blog instead of wasting time dealing with the folks. It was a bold move that apparent ticked at least one potential customer off. And while they proceeded to offer apologies, I say they shouldn’t have.

Electric Pulp has a skillset that is in great demand right now, so they have the luxury of picking and choosing their clients. There will always be someone with a negative attitude waiting to dance on a grave, but if they continue to do great work and keep their shop lean, any eventual downturn in the market isn’t going to effect them as much as the competitor who took every tom, dick and harry as a client and ate costly project overruns (which always happens) instead of squirreling away the good nuts.

It’s something everyone out there looking for exceptional help should take note of. Treat your vendors (and those you are courting) with trust and respect, and that includes doing a little homework before you go out looking for bids. Otherwise, there may come a day when you find yourself wearing worn out shoes and there is nobody around both capable and willing to fix them for you.

UPDATE: Another, slightly different take. This may be the reason Electric Pulp gets so many ludicrous requests – those inquiries are coming from wishfully thinking founders of non-entities – founders that have not the capability to conceptualize the task at hand. Or as Nussbaum put it:

“I think managers have to BECOME designers, not just hire them. I think CEOs have to embrace design thinking, not just hire someone who gets it.”

I say fat chance – creative thinkers everywhere should get used to hearing stuff like this:

“I have a revolutionary new idea to discuss with you once you’ve signed my NDA.”

Advice on turnarounds, from an internet guy

Maybe calling Marc Andreessen an “internet guy” is putting it lightly – with all the big-name fanfare regarding his blogging exploits I say what the hell. You have to give credit where credit is due, and his latest is a doosie…turnaround tactics.

For the most part, it is politically incorrect. That generally means it’s all true and wholly justified and should be followed with fervor bordering on religious fanatism. Nonetheless, it’s an open source world and there are some classes and functions worth adding to:

“Identify the 3-5 things that are working surprisingly well in your business, and double down on those.”

I love the double-down concept. And, if you can find one thing working surprisingly well in a turnaround situation, call yourself lucky.

“Identify the 3-5 things that are consuming a lot of money and time and yet going nowhere, and kill those.”

That includes customers, with emphasis on the real pain-in-the-butt ones you know are only dealing with you to further some internal agenda of theirs.

“Look at the market, figure out 3-5 new areas in which your company is not currently playing or winning, but are clearly going to grow a lot — and acquire the best company in each of those areas.”

This is often not an option in distressed situations. Cash is king, and your equity is often valueless as acquisition currency.

“But first, throw your predecessor completely under the bus.”

Additionally, if you take this step and subsequently fall flat on your face, you can always run for public office.

What do you do when the customer is always right?

“The customer is always right.” Who hasn’t heard that? And when coming out of the customer’s mouth, isn’t that a euphemism for “my way, or the highway?”

Speculating that’s the case, I tried to think of conditions generally accompanying customers who insist they’re right 100% of the time, but could only come up with one…unprofitability.

When a smart trader suffers a small loss on a position, what do they do? They get rid of it before it turns into a big loss.

Should an unprofitable customer be any different?

UPDATE: It seems that Sprint understands this concept.