Understand anything and everything

On this Armistice Day, I’m reminded of the wisdom of the Vets who influenced my life. Typically, this means lessons learned from my dad and father-in-law, who both served as B-52 mechanics (Presque Isle, Carswell, etc). Seems that the harder the lesson was to understand and learn, the more value it holds.

Watching the election returns come in reminded me of an old joke that a successful landing is any landing you can walk away from. When the context of survivors is “political parties who do things the way they’ve always done them”, it’s too early to tell if anyone survived Tuesday’s landing.

For those who didn’t come here for politics, have no fear, we’ll circle back to a place very much in context with you and your clientele.

I have often noted that anything you do is everything you do, and Tuesday was a world-class illustration.

Hearing what you want to hear

After the Presidential votes are counted, everyone’s a pundit. We know what happened through the view seen from our own window on the world. Some saw it as a shocker. Some as a GOP mandate. Some as a long overdue rejection of the political establishment. You can count me in the third group.

It’s like the “crazy” family member at Thanksgiving dinner. If you don’t know who it is, it’s probably you.

Collectively, the RNC couldn’t believe they had to run with Trump until they had no choice. Likewise, the DNC couldn’t believe their “luck” that the RNC was stuck with Trump. I suspect the RNC couldn’t believe their luck when Hillary was nominated.

Neither party realizes they’re the crazy family members at the table.

Each party’s echo chamber remains in pre-election condition. Before long, I expect you will start seeing signs of “not getting it” in each party’s behavior. I’d like to be wrong about that, but it’s difficult to change organizations of this type, particularly when they say what they say so they can hear it again.

Listen to, understand and know your clientele

Neither party seems to understand one of the messages the election sent: “Stop sending us the same old candidates who do whatever the party wonks say while delivering nothing the candidate promised“. That it was delivered to both parties by the same candidate is noteworthy.

This happens after decades of not listening to your clientele (yes, voters are a clientele). It happens after decades of telling your clientele you’re going to deliver, but you never do. Not that they delivered two days late, or two months late but NEVER.

With that, let’s start to tie these events to your business.

Circling back with understanding

Until it happens, it’s extraordinarily difficult to understand what it’s like for a factory to close in your town. Most politicians think they understand it because they’ve seen photos and spreadsheets, talked to the former plant manager and toured the factory. You can’t really understand it without living it. Unless you worked there, live in the town, know the people, know their kids, see them them at ball games and grocery stores, it’s difficult to understand. Even then, unless your job is one of the ones that was lost, you don’t really get it.

The business owner has a parallel. They’ve lost customers, or lost or closed a business in the past. They understand that every day, their business is up for re-election.

If I asked your clientele to vote anonymously for your business’ survival, what outcome would you expect? Every stop or visit to your website is a vote of confidence. If they’re tired of your place or want a change, it’s a vote in the other direction.

Like a politician, you have two choices. You can depend on your echo chamber like those political parties, or you can get nose to nose, toes to toes with your clientele and learn what really makes them tick, what makes them worry, what takes away their pain and why they like (or don’t like) you. It’s hard (sometimes exhausting) work much like campaigning.

When you know your clientele better than anyone, it changes anything and everything. Your behavior, service, team, products, marketing and reaction to events that affect your clientele – they all reflect that knowledge.

If you’re a politician… it works roughly the same way, notwithstanding the votes you get simply because you’re a member of a particular party.

Jeep knows how you treat them

Last Sunday, I referred to this video briefly, but I didn’t stick it in your face.

It DESERVES to be in your face, but not just because of how cool it is to watch a small group of guys drive up, disassemble and reassemble a Jeep in 4 minutes, and then drive away.

That was a remarkable piece of teamwork. You didn’t see anyone looking around to check that the other guy was doing their job. Everyone knew they were and they each depended on that knowledge.

The key is in Sunday’s guest post: The Jeep vs. Bentley comparo.

The design comment about how Jeep knows how their customers treat their vehicles and thus, they know that they will break them and thus they design them for simplicity when it comes to doing repairs. Not just simple repairs, but repairs with simple tools that most Jeep owners would have in their car (plus the usual duct tape and baling wire).

The key is that Jeep knows their customers. Jeep owners have pretty much always been that way with their vehicles.

We gave our youngest our 93 Jeep Wrangler when he earned his Eagle last year. When he went to school 700 miles away this fall, we didn’t worry (any more than usual) about his transportation. We know that college guys will drive like college guys. And we also know that the Jeep is built to take it.

That Jeep has been on its side once. It happened after sliding off a very icy road that conspired with a road heave and a resulting loss of patch. Once it left the road, it very very gently tipped over. Most cars would barf at such a thing. Once righted, the Jeep started on the first turn of the key.

You see, the people who make Jeeps know that the people who own them will tip them over now and then. Not at highway speeds, but usually when doing goofy things in sand, mud or what not. Including sliding oh-so-slowly off an icy road that’s beveled just a tad in the wrong direction.

Do you know your customers as well as Jeep knows theirs? Do your products and services reflect that?

It’s not just reflected in your products and services. It had better be central to your marketing message and the core psyche of your organization.