It’s All Relative

Here’s my #thoughtfortheday. Waking very early (insomnia, or an active brain, I’m never quite sure) I dimmed the ipad light and started looking for new books about #value and #success. You won’t be surprised to hear that there are definitely hundreds, and probably thousands. Even when I search for only those rated 4.5 stars and above (on Kindle), there are loads. Given that you’re not in a position to read as many business books as me ((big assumption, but it’s kind-of my job), let me tell you what I found.

Whilst the majority of authors are advocating some lifestyle changes, clever ways to generate ideas, and learning techniques for standing out, much of their work seems pretty complicated. Probably more importantly, each of the “best-rated” books seems to have at least one “golden nugget”; an idea that made me concentrate and really take notice.  But there isn’t one place that curates all this brilliant knowledge, and maybe that’s a book for me to write.

But here’s what really stuck in my mind. Many of the books are of the “buy at the airport”, self-help variety. They focus on making you the best in the world. Maybe that’s what sells books, but I’m not much interested. Meritology’s approach is more earthy and gritty – we’re interested in how people #standout in their context, alongside their peers and against their competitors. And it’s all relative. Everything in life is relative, because we all look at things from different perspectives. Perspectives depend on background, experience, intentions and objectives.

In the world of being #standout, your #value and #success is measured against what’s around you. For example, if you’re a star in a team of average players then you’ll #standout.  If you’re brilliant in an industry sector that doesn’t attract the best talent, your clients will love you (some personal experience coming out there). And if you’re the best on a given day, and at a significant time, then you’ll get the gig or the deal.

So don’t obsess about being the best. Focus on being the best you can be.  If life is an athletics race, remember you only have to be a vest-breadth ahead of the other runners. It’s not always about breaking a world record.


Pruning The Tree

Most of the companies I work with have obvious #value, and a firm strategy for delivering that to their customers. But when you probe, explore and investigate more, you realise that not everything they do adds #value. It’s often worse than that – for some companies, much of what they do is actually distracting customers from seeing or feeling their #value.

By way of explanation, here’s an example of a Christmas present. Last Christmas (there’s a song in there!), I bought my son a #gaming chair – one of those that looks like a racing driver’s seat. Imagine a teenager relaxing and playing on the Sony PS4, scoring footie goals and crashing sports cars, and you get the idea.

I’d read plenty of reviews – which is why I ordered this particular make and model. From the point of ordering, what would add #value to this item is great packaging, careful delivery and clear instructions (for setting up the wireless connectivity, to prevent tripping over cables between different gadgets we’ve hooked up in the den). And yet there were none of those things. The seat was poorly packaged (the lightweight wrapper had to be repaired by the courier); it was dumped outside our front door by the delivery driver; and it was completely devoid of decent set-up instructions. And that’s where the problems started.

We just couldn’t fathom how to get the seat to work, and couldn’t find out how to fix the issue. So we tried to call the manufacturer, to find they were closed right through Christmas and until the New Year. Now here’s the key point. I naturally visited their website, to find it had set-up instructions for pretty much every known device. But I couldn’t search for my device; I had to scroll through pages of irrelevant data to get to what I needed. And when I viewed the company’s YouTube channel, what I found was vanity – lots of showing off about how wonderful the sound and movement experience would be on this device. Both website and channel were bloated by extra content, hiding the most important aspect – getting the darned thing to work (that’s a milder version of the word I actually used on Christmas morning). It was like a fat belly hiding a washboard stomach or (in more polite terms) a tree that needs pruning.

NEW

And that explains this image – it shows all the things that hide #core value. I’m making the point that most companies need to do some pruning – cutting off some of the branches of (a tree or bush) so that it will grow better or look better (or be free of decay or disease). In terms of #value, it’s about reducing yet improving something, by removing parts that are neither necessary nor wanted.

So what should you prune back? First, you need to think about your core #value. Next, you have to decide what is preventing the customer from seeing and feeling that #value. In my experience, #value gets lost somehow; smothered over time by what the market dictates (or you think it wants), and what your people decide the customer needs. It’s the world of extras, add-ons and embellishments. Some add #value, but many just don’t. It’s natural and critical to adapt and improve. But here’s the problem – without starting with a clear definition of your #value, and only adding and doing things that grow that #value, you can end up with something rampant. And then it’s time to prune the tree.

Maybe a hard prune is needed – only you can decide. It’s probably a choice between clipping away with the secateurs, or hacking away with a saw. But whatever you do, don’t panic or regret how sparse and bare the tree will look. See what it’s become in the Spring…


It’s All About Results

You’ve caught me taking a break. Tough day, and time to reflect on some interesting things that happened in the wonderful world of corporate!

And I started thinking about one of my supplier relationships. They are not a major supplier. They don’t impact my work every day. But they are important, and supply a valuable service.

But they are not the best to deal with. They are neither good at making me feel informed, nor at updating me on their progress. They check-in too infrequently. They like to be kept alone; to get on with what they are doing. They struggle to follow some clear instructions, and question too much (even too much for my liking – and I grew up being challenged and loving the energy that creates). But bizarrely, I keep using them. Why?

It’s simple really. The MERIT Method℠ uses the following five factors to define and measure value:

  1. Memory (how people recall or remember you, and the influence of their perceptions)
  2. Emotion (why they connect with you, and the state and reactions you create)
  3. Results (what you do or could deliver, and the various approaches and methods you use)
  4. Innovation (where you create more value, and solve or overcome important and specific problems)
  5. Time (when people acknowledge value, and the ways you manage those phases and stages)

This supplier is good at Memory. When I think of them, I remember that we’ve had a longstanding relationship. They are well respected, and know our business. But something else is more important. They produce Results. They deliver what’s needed and, even when I am beginning to doubt them, pop up with another success story. The problem is that they are lousy at managing Emotion – in this case meaning how the buyer (me!) feels about the day-to-day relationship. So they may help me reach of the summit of the mountain, and plant the flag, but I won’t enjoy the trip.

So, what I am concluding? It’s rare (in my world anyway) to keep using anything or anyone when “doing business” is a challenge. Where that Emotion isn’t right. But people can get away with most things if they produce Results. Maybe they’ll be fired as soon as they stop producing those Results, but they’re safe for now.

But there is one important thing I need to stress, before I get back to work. Key to Memory is trust. This is a supplier I trust. Trust to do a professional job. And trust is at the centre of everything. Whilst it’s there, I’m happy to keep them. And happy to wait patiently, util they recognise the issues and take the chance to improve. What I personally feel on a day to day basis is irrelevant. It’s all about Results.


Something Fruity For a Friday

Just a short story about fun, friends and food.  We had a great time eating out with some lovely new friends, at a local pub. Nothing new there, other than a slightly odd experience with desserts.

Now, I continually say that I don’t have a sweet tooth. It’s not true, and I was sulking slightly because there was nothing on the menu that I fancied. With our friends having Banoffee Pie and a Cheese Board, my wife ordered her favourite – Raspberry Eton Mess. Now, there’s usually some excitement and anticipation about Eton Mess – it’s made in many different ways, and looks and tastes different depending on the chef.  But this one was very different. Unless I’m very much mistaken, it was  Strawberry Eton Mess.  Maybe in Theale they grow raspberries with the seeds on the outside. Or maybe not. They were definitely strawberries, and not raspberries.

And I still haven’t stopped laughing about it. When someone serves up completely the wrong fruit, doesn’t even mention it, and expects you not to notice, then I think I’ve a right to tell the story. Meritology talks about being distinctive. But what this pub did made them #standout for all the wrong reasons. There are 218 pubs in the Reading postcode district (thanks to www.pubsgalore.co.uk for that statistic!), and we’ll be trying one of those next time. Maybe they’ll have raspberries in their Eton Mess. And maybe we’ll get what we ordered. Simple really.


When It’s Hard To Be Humble

Earlier in the week I met with John Peters @Johnpeters1531. John is famous for being a prisoner in the Gulf War. Remember him? He was the guy whose battered and bruised face appeared in photos across the quality and popular press. It turns out he was kept in captivity for seven weeks, and became a symbol of a war that divided opinion across the UK.

Yet he doesn’t rush to tell the story (despite having met royalty, chatted to Princess Diana, followed Nelson Mandela on stage, and being a major celebrity). Instead he’s a humble human being, who talks about “being bombed etc” as if that was just part of his job. He’s gone way past the bravado I might have expected from a military hero. And I loved him for it. It demonstrated a warm and likeable style that’s important for anyone speaking at The Henley Partnership @Henley_HP.

And this told me something new about value. His humility impressed me, intrigued me and interested me. It made me look for his real value; what he offers in terms of life and work experience to the business professionals we bring into our events. It made me believe that he’ll make sense, and be valuable, to the people listening. In the Gulf it was about survival, which taught John lots about leadership. And he’s turned his experiences into a relaxed yet robust framework to help leaders thrive in an environment of uncertainty. That’s not just valuable. It’s critical to the success of anyone in a leadership role.

So back to that humility. When it comes to value, showing humility “shines and amplifies” but arrogance “dulls and deadens”. I’ve seen arrogance too much lately – from junior players in cricket to senior figures in business. It makes me focus too much on the person’s style, and not enough on their substance. And if I don’t like the style, maybe I’ll ignore the substance.

So here’s my advice. Be brilliant. Be confident. Be assured. But show that humility. Even when you’re so talented that it’s hard to be humble. Your value will be obvious to everyone, and that will really make you #standout.

P.S. Meritology’s The MERIT Method℠ includes a clear focus on how value is affected by the emotional reaction of the person receiving. This blog is just one example. Please get in touch if you’d like to know more.