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Becoming the Easy Button

Easy – like going downhill.  Creative Commons License photo credit: Mikelo

Ever made life difficult for internal customers?

Oh, I don’t mean intentionally. Really I don’t.

Last week, I was talking to a friend who works for a large multi-national corporation.

The conversation reminded me about corporate culture, something I’ve mostly missed out on since my Electronic Data Systems (EDS) days. That was the pre-GM, pre-HP, Ross Perot era, if you’re keeping score.

He reminded me of situations including those where you can often get an outside vendor to provide a service faster, better and cheaper than an internal corporate division that was built and funded to provide those very same services to co-workers.

It also reminded me how easy it is to understand (logically, at least) how companies can lay off thousands at a time.

Thousands. Sometimes tens of thousands.

Think about the financial, cultural and emotional impact on a community (or communities) when that occurs, not to mention the impact of those workers on their employer’s financials from a return on investment perspective. Did they make themselves irrelevant?


What’s your corporate pleasure?

Your small business might specialize in the type of work that a corporate person needs from their internal division – but can’t get. That work might be hydrology, remote sensing or language translation, and I expect that your business is likely do a better job than a corporate division or department that is supposed to take care of those services for their company.

Sometimes “better job” means “we actually deliver the service”. Sometimes it means more than that.

The internal customer goes out on the open market and finds cooperative, hungry vendor, beats them up on price (perhaps), sets a deadline and then has the audacity to expect on-time delivery.

All of that happens faster and with far less hassle than dealing with the internal department designed to do this work for the company.

It’s not hard to see how profits could be hard to come by when there are whole buildings full of people making life difficult for their colleagues.

Instead of pushing the issue and making a stink within their management food chain, those colleagues get the job done because they need the job done sooner rather than later.

They don’t have time for “Dancing with the Stars” style management politics.

They don’t need a five week wait, a nine meeting approval process, an internal purchase order and the signatures of 12 people to get an engineering report delivered.

They just need the work done – effectively, the What-You-Do version of the Staples “Easy Button”.

Divide and Conquer

One thing I always found interesting (if not amusing) was the widespread acceptance of  “small” $2999 (or some similarly “almost the next big amount” number) corporate credit card payments.

At some levels of management, corporate card holders can spend up to some amount of that nature every month without purchase orders, without RFPs, without any other massive paperwork and they can buy TODAY.

IF, that is, you are willing to accept split payments over a few months so that this person can get the work done rather than spend all their time writing proposals, reviewing bids and greasing the finance committee.

To be sure, some spending abuse occurs when this happens, but most of the time, it happens because the grind to get things done through channels is more work than the work you actually want to get done.

The point of mentioning this is to make sure that your corporate clients are well aware that you offer this sort of thing as a payment option.

The corporate buyer’s responsibility is to get things done. Internal purchasing policy hassles make for a poor excuse to upper management. Fixing those hassles is management’s job, so it is ironic that they will find them poor excuses.

Regardless, your direct contacts have things they need to get done. Help them do so.

The Employee Shoe

If you’re the corporate type, one thing to be very careful of here is that the treatment you get as an internal customer doesn’t negatively affect your work with your external customers.

Sometimes it’s hard, but I can tell you this – if you think and work like a business owner rather than as an employee, you’ll be the one who benefits in the long run.

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Starbucks strikes back against “theft”

It’s a nicely done video with just a small rough spot here and there. I like how Howard thanks his staff.

It’s certainly a good example of communicating your company’s values in ways other than organically.

It’s not theft when you give it away

Most interesting is the claim that that indie coffee shops (perhaps more accurately: McDonald’s) are stealing Starbucks’ story. You know, the story about the indie, perhaps even quirky, coffee shop that does it all while you watch.

The story Starbucks gave away in exchange for stock certificates, warehouses and cookie cutter stores.

Back in prehistoric times before there were 4 bazillion Starbucks stores, before conference calls with Wall Street, they did the things that indies have always done.

Now, they compete with McDonald’s for the McCoffee market and they buy, roast and ship prefab coffee around like McDonald’s ships prefab burgers. To their credit, it got a little better when they went to Pike Place Roast, but it still isn’t like fresh roasted indie coffee.

Coffee should be roasted in your shop for consumption that day (OK, I’ll give you a week or so), not in a warehouse in (among other places) New Jersey.

What’s that smell?

To reclaim the indie story, you have to do the things an indie coffee shop lives for (and their clientele depends on):

  • roast your beans in the store, in small quantities.
  • serve ground-that-moment coffee, not ground-last-month-in-New-Jersey coffee.
  • roast coffee till it’s just right (rather than burn it)

The air in a community coffee shop should smell like fine coffee, rather than carry the aroma of stale french fry grease.

Congruence. Do you have it?