What is the No. 1 job of your company?
Generate revenue by making sales? Make the world a better place? Provide a livelihood for you and your employees? Nope. Nope. And, you guessed it, nope.
Make it Easy for Your Customers, Staff and Suppliers to Do Business with You
The No. 1 job of ANY company no matter the size or industry, including yours, is to make something easier for your customers or your customer’s customers, staff and suppliers.
This is the secret behind Amazon’s success. They pursue “easy” every day and in every aspect of their business from how manufacturers package and ship products to the user experience on the website and how they handle returns. They pioneered one-click shopping—what could be easier than that?
Internally, what drives innovative new products or services at Amazon is an obsession on the customer experience that puts the focus of every new idea on how it would be valued by a customer.
Development of new products or services at Amazon focuses on “working backwards,” a concept borrowed from Amazon’s long-established leadership principles. The first of them starts: “Customer obsession. Leaders start with the customer and work backwards …”. Essentially, any innovative idea employees want to bring to fruition begins first by considering how this would benefit the customer with supporting documents (internal press release/FAQ) that clearly outline the value of the new product or service for the customer.
Since this is a clearly outlined process that must be followed every time a new idea is proposed, it makes it easier for any individual contributor at every level to pitch something they’re passionate about.
In 2017, when IKEA purchased TaskRabbit, an on-demand platform that connects IKEA shoppers with people who will help them put their IKEA furniture together, it was a strategy to make things easier for their customers. In a press statement released at the time, IKEA CEO Jesper Brodin said, “In a fast-changing retail environment, we continuously strive to develop new and improved products and services to make our customers’ lives a little bit easier.”
“Make it Easy” applies to smaller companies as well. Since 1994, Baja Bound Mexican Insurance Services, Inc. has made it easy for American drivers to purchase Mexican auto insurance (a requirement if you want to drive in Mexico). Customers can purchase insurance policies online in three simple steps from providers they can trust. Based on the testimonials like these, Baja Bound wants to live up to its commitment to provide customers with the easiest way to buy Mexican insurance and they only employ seven staff and a dog called “Fletch” to do it:
- “It’s great. I tell everyone I know about it…simple, quick, affordable and easy. Great product, great service.” —N.L., Phoenix, AZ
- “The process was absolutely painless and totally convenient. Thanks.” —S.S., San Diego, CA
- “This was the easiest site that I have been too. Great job and easy. Thanks.” —A.G., Tehachapi, CA
Another success story where simplification and “making it easy” are keys to success is from the second-largest retailer in the world, Costco. We’ve all heard about how retail is dead and brick-and-mortar stores are going extinct, but sales and profits continue to grow at Costco. Unlike Amazon or Walmart, the number one retailer in the world, Costco only stocks one choice in each product category which allows them to get the best prices from their suppliers and then pass those savings on to their customers. They only have 4,000 SKUs compared to 120,000 available at Walmart and 600,000,000 at Amazon. This overriding philosophy of making it easy has allowed Costco to buck the malaise plaguing other retailers with brick-and-mortar stores who are trying to compete in an online world.
RedBalloon, an Australian company that discovers and delivers personalized experiences and encourages its customers to give experiences as gifts, believes in building a great customer experience. They offer 5,000 unique experiences through more than 1,500 business partners in Australia and New Zealand. The company set out to test if they could be successful by “listening to its people and customers and delivering a great experience to both.” Their success since 2001 affirms they can. Naomi Simson, the company’s founder, attended a Scaling Up workshop in 2005 and achieved the 10-year Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) she set two years early. Naomi kept RedBalloon employees focused on the ultimate objectives by displaying scoreboards around the office and on everybody’s computers and mobile devices so it was easy for them to see exactly how the company was progressing toward the BHAG.
Leaders Make It Easy for Employees
Your job as a leader is to make things easier for your employees. As you scale, this can be a challenge.
One of the reasons John Ratliff, who is now the CEO of ScalingUp Coaches, was able to reduce staff turnover to 18% from an industry average of 110% in the call centers of Appletree Answers was by using the tools and ideas from Scaling Up and the Rockefeller Habits, based on the leadership and management principles used by John D. Rockefeller. The Rockefeller Habits were created by Verne Harnish, founder of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, founder and CEO of Gazelles (of which I am a Certified Coach) and author of three books to help organizations scale up including Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It. . .and Why the Rest Don’t, The Greatest Business Decisions of All Time and Mastering the Rockefeller Habits.
John focused on making the job of his employees easier. Along with ensuring their keyboards worked and they had the supplies they needed, the management team would show up the day after a call center acquisition, ask everyone to stand up from their uncomfortable chairs and throw them out the window or add them to a burn pile (if they could secure a permit). Then, they’d replace the outdated chairs with top-of-the-line Herman Miller Aeron chairs. If the existing office space was drab, they’d move to a much nicer place as soon as they could. Ultimately, John made the jobs of his employees easier so that they would make their customers’ lives easier.
With these efforts, John not only reduced turnover, but he also took an industry that averaged 4% profitability and generated margins more like a tech startup of 21.8%–better than Apple’s profitability this year. He was able to purchase these call centers for 3x earnings and then ultimately sold them to a $2 billion company that paid him 14x earnings. Every dollar he invested, returned $25.
Costco is known as a quality employer and experiences high employee retention rates because of how it treats its employees. The company pays the best wages in its industry and offers healthcare, 401K and more benefits to employees. But, the company also makes things easier for employees on the job. Stocking shelves is simple because of the warehouse format that allows employees to take product directly from trucks to the sales floor via forklift and doesn’t require them to spend much time unboxing or stocking inventory.
Every organization and leader can figure out how to make things easier for its customers and employees.
Whenever you’re ready, if you need support scaling your business and determining how to make things easier there are a few ways I can help.
- Schedule a call with Gazelles Scaling Up Coach and founder and chief adviser of hgAdvisers, Jonathan Herps.
- Attend a half-day Scaling Up Business Growth Workshop in Sydney on 20 February 2019
Do you know another business leader who might benefit from Jonathan’s Insights? Have them subscribe to Jonathan’s Insights on our website.