Visionary or Blind Direction?

Written by Bill Tanzer


No matter what the industry, great companies have a main reason for being in business. Not just for making money. Sure, most everyone enjoys making money. Who doesn’t? Do you wake up in the morning happy to have an empty wallet? Of course not. But money is usually not the primary mission or reason to start a company, no matter how small or large your business may be. There is usually a goal, a need to fulfill, a dream. Every day, entrepreneurs and small business owners have an idea, act on that idea that either becomes great or languishes because of one fundamental vision, or lack thereof.

So what is your company’s vision and how do your customers see it? Is your message, mission and values getting mixed up with a half a dozen competitors? I’m not judging what your message might be, just, do you have one? And if so, is your message unknown, misunderstood or lost? Worse, is it a falsehood? By that, I mean, are you practicing what you preach, walking the talk and all that.

Conscious consumers do not purposely flock to stores with contradictory business practices. No one wants exercise advice from a steroid user, consults a dentist with missing front teeth, or crave financial tips from a twice bankrupt accountant in tax arrears. Here is another extreme example. Say a small grocery store positions itself as an organic deli, claiming to offer a variety of pasture-fed meats and natural foods. The store happens to be in a market looking for exactly those kinds of products. So the store thrives. Except in reality, the “free-range chickens” are actually cloned in a lab, hormonally injected and repackaged. What do you suppose would happen? Customers looking for actual grass fed chickens, not to mention truth in advertising, would revolt with torches and pitchforks (once they found out about the trickery.)

Most people would also be weary of hiring a housecleaning company that sent out disheveled, unkempt employers. Do you want a smelly slob brightening up your living room?

Likewise, if a company’s mission is to promote exceptional customer service, such service should be reflected in the day to day operations. Saying you put the customer first does not mean doing so, especially if a company fails to solve consumer complaints or doesn’t care either way. Disney World wouldn’t be touted as a family friendly vacation spot if its employees made riding Dumbo a miserable experience, now would it?

So now only does your company need a message but it needs to be pronounced, known and prominent, every day. Albertsons LLC, a Southern and Western U.S. grocery chain, has recently decided to chuck the self-service checkout lanes. The p.r. rep said the company wants more opportunities to interact with customers, by having live cashiers instead of automation. So the company has announced its message. The point now is to follow up. (Hiring rude, surly or non-committal types isn’t going to sway anyone into believing the statement.)

Let’s see how it goes.

July 14, 2011

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