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The Power of Purpose in Business

It was the spring of 2013 and my first full year as an entrepreneur. I had been introduced to S. Chris Edmonds by a mutual friend. I mentioned to Chris that I was working on launching my business as an author and speaker. He recommended that I speak to Mark Levy.  

Mark Levy leads a consulting practice called Levy Innovation focused on positioning. Described as the “horse whisperer” for writers, Levy had worked with prominent thought leaders such as Marshall Goldsmith, Simon Sinek, David Meerman Scott, and Cali Yost. I hired Mark to help me with my platform. Over six weeks, he coached me on creating marketplace differentiation, crafting an elevator pitch, mining my backstory, and developing a go-to-market strategy.

Mark is brilliant. He taught me about crafting a big idea and developing a backstory. We spent a considerable amount of time on not only the what and how, but also the why. To illustrate the importance of communicating my why, Mark shared a story about one of his clients. It was one I’d never forget.

The Power of Purpose

CalculatorThe client was a financial planner serving small business owners. Let’s call him Ed. Ed had shared with Mark that he recruited the majority of his new clients by speaking. He would give a 90 minute seminar on managing finances. At the end of the seminar, Ed would offer a free one hour consultation/assessment. If there was 40 people in the room, he’d typically have only two or three take him up on the offer. The need to grow his client base led him to Mark. Mark asked Ed why he chose to pursue a career in accounting. He shared that the inspiration began during his teenage years. His parents had passed away in a car accident and he was raised by his grandparents. His grandfather had worked at a local company for over 30 years. His grandmother was working as an office administrative assistant in a local school. Ed could remember sitting in his living room at age 14 like it was yesterday. His grandfather was next to him reading the newspaper. An advertisement caught his eye. The ad was for the sale of a local butcher shop. He approached his wife and expressed his desire to purchase the business. They both would quit and go into business for themselves. She was skeptical, but eventually agreed.

Ed watched his grandparents cash in their life savings to start the new business. The butcher shop didn’t make any money the first year, lost money in year two, and a little more in year three. By the end of the fifth year they had lost the remaining capital and were forced to close the business. Instead of enjoying their retirement, they went back to getting full-time jobs and both worked until they passed away. Ed shared that he went into accounting because he didn’t want to have other small business owners experience what had happened to his grandparents. Mark asked Ed to share this personal backstory during his next seminar. The results were staggering. Ed merely told his backstory on why he became a financial planner before starting his regular session. At the end he made his usual pitch. The difference was that 37 out of the 40 attendees took him up on the offer, many of whom became clients for Ed.

Arriving at the Ultimate Differentiator

I began writing back in 2008. For one year I blogged about 50 different topics in marketing. Searching for what I thought would be a game changer in business. The following year I would have a “moment of truth” in New York City that changed my life. I walked away from that experience believing the biggest myth in business was the idea of meeting customer expectations. Too much attention was being placed on acquisition. Going forward businesses  would need to find the little things to maximize the customer experience by putting customers first. Taking care of the customers they had, so those customers would bring them the (referred) customers they wanted.

I became a disciple of the late Ted Levitt. Levitt believed that business should put the customer at the center of everything they do. Levitt asserted that “The search for meaningful distinction is central to the marketing effort. If marketing is about anything, it is about achieving customer-getting distinction by differentiating what you do and how you operate. All else is derivative of that and only that.” I believed the focus of business should be on customers and not just chasing bottom line profits. Profit was the result, not the aim. Customer experience was to become the new marketing.

PurpleGoldfishAfter collecting over 1,000 examples and writing Purple Goldfish, my thinking was slightly altered. I found that the companies who did the little extras for customers, also applied the same principles for their employees. In fact, many of those successful companies seemed to place a greater emphasis on culture and putting their employees first. It led me to crowdsource another 1,000+ examples. These examples were focused on the little things for employees to help drive engagement and reinforce culture. The result was my second book, the Green Goldfish.

GreenGoldfishMy outlook after Green Goldfish was altered once again. I had previously held the view that you treat all of your customers and all of your employees the same. I came to realize that for most companies, 80% of profitability is created by just 20% of customers. In addition, 80% of the value that is created by a business, comes from just 20% of the employees. I realized that you don’t treat everyone the same, you treat everyone fairly. My third book in the original trilogy, the Golden Goldfish, focused on the little things you do for your “vital few” in business.

GoldenGoldfishI now believe there is an ultimate differentiator. While writing Golden Goldfish I was introduced to Chris Malone. Chris Malone co-authored The Human Brand with Susan T. Fiske. The book examines the concepts of warmth and competence in relation to business. As humans, our brains are hardwired to sense warmth and competence immediately. Warmth trumps competence. It starts inside your organization and radiates to your customer. If you want to win the hearts of employees and wallets of customers, you must go out of your way to put their interests ahead of yours. Malone and Fiske call this the principle of worthy intentions. These worthy intentions are typically linked to the purpose of your company. Purpose is now becoming the ultimate differentiator.

The book Red Goldfish, co-authored by Graeme Newell,  (launching 2/14/17) will explore how business is evolving, the importance of putting purpose first, how to define your purpose, the eight purpose archetypes, and how to create the little things that bring purpose to life.

Red Goldfish Book

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – here is a slideshare presentation on the concept of a Red Goldfish:

Purple, Green, Golden, and Blue: Pal's is a Goldfish Paradise

Burgers, hot dogs, fries, and milkshakes. It’s the quintessential backyard American food and a staple of Americana fast food. But these establishment are a dime a dozen, aren’t they? Sure, there are the Chick-fil-A’s of the world. But isn’t it nearly impossible to carve out your own identity in this sea of sameness?

Pal’s Sudden Service, a double drive-thru fast food restaurant chain with 26 locations in Tennessee and Virginia, is certainly up for the challenge. Pal’s believe that an emphasis on its people, speed, customer service, and quality is what truly sets them apart.

Here are five quick facts about Pal’s Sudden Service that demonstrate that the proof is really in the pudding (or their milkshakes for that matter): 

  1. An astonishingly low turnover rate with the at the assistant manager level coming in at 1.4 percent, the hourly staff at 32 percent, and has only lost seven general managers in 33 years. In comparison, most fast food chains have an average turnover rate between 50-150 percent with management and hourly employees aggregated together.
  2. An average of 18 seconds at the drive-up window, and an average of 12 seconds at the pickup window to receive the order for a grand total of 30 seconds. That’s four times faster than the second-fastest quick-serve restaurant in the country.
  3. Pal’s makes a mistake only once in every 3,600 orders. That’s nearly ten times better the the second most accurate fast food chain, Chick-fil-A.
  4. 1,100-square-foot buildings accruing right around $2 million per year in sales. That’s just over $1,818 per square foot. The iconic Shake Shack and Chipotle restaurant chains come in at $387 and $250 in comparison, respectively. Remember, it’s not how high your sales are, it’s how much you bring home to the bank.
  5. One of two restaurant chains that has ever won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. This prestigious award caused Pal’s to create the Business Excellence Institute (BEI) as a way to share best business practices with others. The other restaurant winner of the Baldrige award is a BEI client, Mighty Fine Burger.

By now you’re probably very impressed but this all begs the question, how does Pal’s do it? 

Here are seven differentiators that Pal’s has instituted that you can learn from:

  1. An emphasis on great people – Pal’s has developed and fine-tuned a screening system to evaluate candidates that includes a 60-point psychometric survey, based on the attitudes and attributes of Pal’s star performers, that does an unprecedented job of predicting who is most likely to succeed.
  2. Top-notch training – Once Pal’s selects its candidates, they put employees through 120 hours of training before they are allowed to work on their own, and must be certified in each of the specific jobs they do. Pal’s also has assembled a Master Reading List for all the leaders in the company and it includes 21 books that must be read. Every two weeks, the CEO, Thom Crosby, invites five managers from different locations to discuss one of the books on the Master Reading List.
  3. Ongoing training – Pal’s believes that all leaders are trainers and educators. They also believe that people educate by their attitudes, their behaviors, and by their focus. At Pal’s, every leader needs to have a coaching and training target every single day. Management and leadership asks their employees at random, “What’s your target for today?” Every single employee has to have a person and a topic every single day.
  4. Technology – Pal’s has a proprietary “training tracker” software system that manages all employees. The software quizzes employees at random every single day whether it’s their first day on the job or they’ve been there for 10 years. The software goes through the basics, the most critical parts of the operations with employees. Management then conducts an observation to make sure the employees are still adhering to the standard 100% without exceptions.
  5. Development of leaders – Employees who have scored 100 percent on four re-certifications are eligible to become coaches within their restaurants and help their colleagues consistently develop and adhere to their standards. According to the CEO, “We are looking to get people to this mastery level.”
  6. A commitment to staying top of mind – Pal’s recognizes that all restaurants are chosen from a defined mental rolodex by customers. and believe that customers only ever think about 2-10 establishments. This is the reason why Pal’s created their website to have a unique and inspiring thought of the day, local movie theatre showtimes, and the CEO answers every single question through the contact form. This is what keeps people coming back to Pal’s site and provides a useful service to the communities Pal’s serves.
  7. A focus on culture – According to the CEO, “Sometimes I get that itch that maybe it’s time to step up and expand faster. But we want to make sure that we hand off all the cultural pieces to each store. I see operations that outgrow their cultures. They can’t pass on their culture so they go from a really great concept with great people to weaker and weaker operations and people who don’t understand the origin of the culture.”

What’s preventing you from instituting world class principles just like Pal’s? Does your business do anything similar? Leave a comment below.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Be sure to check out this incredible overview about living your mission from the president of Pal’s BEI, David McClaskey.

Is It About You or Them? Make a Choice

By this time, it was mass chaos. Exacerbating matters was the fact that this was a post–September 11th world, where cute disguises don’t go over so well with airport security or law enforcement. Still thinking it was a heart attack, a defibrillator was used to shock me as Lindsay looked on in complete horror.

This is an excerpt from a story that my good friend, John Ruhlin, tells about his proposed engagement in his new book, Giftology: The Art and Science of Using Gifts to Cut Through the Noise, Increase Referrals, and Strengthen Retention

John reflects on the situation and notes that his elaborate plan to dress up as an old man and surprise his then girlfriend was based on the fact that he loves surprises. She would have been happy with something simple and the engagement should have been more about her rather than him.

John then expounds on this notion and comments, “We make a gift all about us. It’s our event, our colors, our themes, our preferences, our whatever—and it has little to do with the recipient. Be thoughtful about what’s motivating you, and be honest with yourself…[giving] isn’t about stepping into the spotlight—it’s about shining the light on someone else.

This principle of putting others first and genuinely serving them applies to every Goldfish concept. Too often, companies and people are quick to ask how the Goldfish concepts can build the top-line instead of giving from a generous heart to make the lives of the people that they serve better. Here’s a synopsis of the Goldfish:

Purple Goldfish- Give the little things to your customers to touch their hearts and create a better experience.  

Green Goldfish- Go beyond dollars to drive employee engagement and reinforce culture.

Golden Goldfish- Take extra special care of the top 20% of your customers and employees.

Blue Goldfish- Leverage technology to create a better customer experience and differentiate from competition.

Red Goldfish- Embrace purpose to drive employee and customer engagement, and make an impact on the lives of those the purpose serves.

When most people hear those concepts, they typically comment that they share these values and believe that they they’re important, but…

That’s when all of the “but’s” begin to set in and negate everything that was said before:

  • We have to experience growth and have quantifiable metrics and returns for our shareholders and investors. We can’t gamble on an “expensive” initiative and not have it correlate to results.
  • My boss and the board just don’t share these ideals.
  • We just don’t have time. We’re too busy.

On and on it goes. What starts as a positive, fruitful discussion transitions into the same old focus of financial results and nothing more. Oftentimes people will even comment and talk about participating in these business principles but it’s almost always about them and their organization. For example:

  • You give nice gifts branded with your logo to try and buy the loyalty of customers.
  • You’re nice to your employees because it’s expensive to replace them.
  • You invest in technology to alleviate long-term costs.
  • You establish a “purpose” as though it’s a marketing campaign to convey how thoughtful and philanthropic you are.

What can you do about this? Here are the three easy steps that you can take immediately:

1. Make a deliberate choice. You don’t have to overhaul your entire organization today to embrace these principles. You simply need to be intentional about positively impacting your customers and employees and make this the focus of your decision-making. Make it about the people that you serve and the strategic plan and little bits of action will follow.

2. Be the catalyst for positive change. If you truly believe that giving, serving, and making a positive difference in the lives of others then why have you not made this clear to your organization? Is it because you’re afraid of being talked about, not fitting in, detracting focus, or temporarily failing? Relentless commitment to creating and sharing vision with others is how positive change will permeate in your business.

3. Establish a plan. Would our team like to work with you to make executing these principles faster and easier? Of course. However, you can do this yourself if you’re willing to take little bits of daily action to intentionally design your customer experience, employee engagement, technology, and purpose. When you figure out what the right inputs are then you’ll inherently discover how they correlate to your top-line results.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – If you have an hour, check out Lewis Howes interviewing John Ruhlin about the principles of radical generosity. It’s worth your time!

 

Five Unforgettable Bits of Wisdom from John Maxwell

Recently I went to Atlanta, GA, to help serve John Maxwell at a conference. It was a bit of a sacrifice, and I fell behind in my work by at least two days. I also paid my own way just to be there. You heard me correctly…I invested my time and hard-earned money to volunteer.

And I can tell you unequivocally that I would gladly pay to be able to serve, again and again. Spending 10 hours in a room with a master that had devoted his entire life to systems of leadership and constant growth was an honor.

Multiply-120

Most would say that John Maxwell is a book writing machine (80 plus and counting), but I believe that he has merely chosen to be intentional, full of purpose, and dedicated to what he has been called to do in his vocation. Those simple decisions are all that it took for him to become the best in the world.

I have over 20 pages of notes on the topic of growth laws but I went ahead and developed the five top takeaways from the weekend along with my thoughts on them:

1. “Good becomes great when you change a life.”

As leaders, this should always be our sole goal in all that we do. Positively impacting and changing the lives of all of the people that we serve is what it’s all about. However, how often do we let ourselves get bogged down with the [not as] important, everyday activities? How often do we focus on our P&L, and only analyze the output numbers?

Those are good behaviors and overall mindset; but it’s one of the keys that separates the good from the great. Greatness transpires when a leader chooses to make a commitment to change lives of the people that they serve, and refuses to dilute their efforts with mediocre behaviors.

2. “Transformation begins within yourself. Start with you, and go from there.” 

Too often we set out to change and mold others when we’re the ones with the major character flaws. Before a flight takes off, who do the flight attendants tell you to take care of first in case of an emergency when the oxygen masks fall from the overhead compartment? For all of those that are too busy getting in those last second emails or watching Inception on your portable DVD player, they tell you to take care of yourself so that you can then care for others. You can’t help anyone if you’re on the floor gasping for air.

The same applies to engaging our people. If we can’t take care of ourselves, and lead in the way that the rest of the world is counting on us to; then there will be no one to follow us.

3. “Every day, get a win. Do something for someone that they couldn’t for themselves.” 

If we’re winning every single day, and celebrating those successes; then we’re making progress. The key to servant leadership is providing value to others by giving them something that they can’t do alone. Most people tend to overthink this component when it’s actually quite simple at its core.

Can people listen to themselves, and give tidbits of wisdom that they’ve never heard before? Can people learn something new that they currently know nothing about? Nope, and that’s where you, as the leader, need to step in and be proactive about how you can help others. As the saying goes, “the more you know, the more you know what you don’t know.”

4. “Don’t tell me, show me what you’re going to do.”

How many people do you know that are still talking about what they’re going to do, and all of the amazing plans that they have? If you’re honest with yourself, do you have the tendency to be one of those leaders as well at times?

This is especially pertinent when it comes to how you lead your people. They don’t care what you were, or are, going to do for them. They want to see how you can serve them, add value to them, and make their lives better. This is your responsibility and calling as a leader.

5. “No matter how far you go, you have to remember where you came from. That’s who you are, and that’s your foundation.” 

John ended his talk with a walking stick that reminds him where he’s been and what he has accomplished. Various areas of success have a way of putting us on a “feel good” drug where it becomes about you and what you’ve been able to achieve. In my estimation, John’s “walking stick” is the perfect symbol.

The walking stick helps support us when we’re dreary and want to give up. It helps us stay the course with where we’re going. It serves as a constant reminder with where we’ve been, what we’ve conquered, and helps keep us grounded.

This was my number one takeaway: “Where have you come from, and who are you, really?”

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here is John presenting the same content to Nerium, a network marketing company that achieved over $1b in sales in just under six years. Nerium went “all in” on John Maxwell’s teachings, and the results show that the proof is in the pudding.

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Photo credit: leadersmultiply.com

Breaking Down the Purpose of the Goldfish Series

Helping Companies Get Closer to the Hearts of Their Customers and Employees

Here is the purpose of the Goldfish Series of Books: Help companies get closer to the hearts of their customers and employees.

There are currently six Goldfish colors. Each represents a different focus:

Six Goldfish Books

Let’s look at each of the six colors individually.

PURPLE GOLDFISH: LITTLE THINGS MAKE THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE IN CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Purple Goldfish was the first book in the Goldfish Series. It examines the little things that make a big difference in customer experience. Purple uncovers the key ingredients of creating signature added value. The book is based on over 1,000 examples from the Purple Goldfish Project, showcasing 12 different types of purple goldfish in the two main categories of value and maintenance. Little extras such as the importance of follow up and how to handle mistakes. There are two Purple Goldfish books. The original and a version focused on Hotels, Restaurants, and Airlines co-authored with Brooks Briz called, Purple Goldfish – Service Edition.
TAKEAWAY: Actionable ways to improve the customer experience
 

GREEN GOLDFISH: GOING BEYOND DOLLARS TO DRIVE EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT AND REINFORCE CULTURE

Green Goldfish was the second book in the Goldfish Series. When writing Purple, it became evident that the companies that did the little extras for customers also applied the same concept for their employees. The book uncovers the fact that you can’t have happy enthused customers without happy engaged employees. Based on a collection of our 1,000 examples the Green Goldfish Project, Green shares 15 types of green goldfish. They are little extras for employees such as onboarding, team building, flexibility, recognition, pay it forward, and empowerment.
TAKEAWAY: Actionable ways to improve the employee experience
 
Photo Credit: Alana Jane Gifts

Photo Credit: Alana Jane Gifts

GOLDEN GOLDFISH: TAKING CARE OF YOUR MOST IMPORTANT CUSTOMERS AND EMPLOYEES

Golden Goldfish finished the original trilogy of Goldfish books. It was based on the simple fact that eighty percent of  your profitability is driven through the Top 20 percent of customers and employees. These are your vital few. You don’t treat all customers and employees the same, you treat them all fairly. Golden shares nine different key drivers of overall performance from over 200 examples in the Golden Goldfish Project.
TAKEAWAY: Actionable ways to improve the customer and employee experience for your top 20%
 

BLUE GOLDFISH: USING TECHNOLOGY, DATA, AND ANALYTICS TO DRIVE DIFFERENTIATION AND CUSTOMER ADVOCACY

Blue Goldfish is the fourth book in the Goldfish series. According to a recent study, 76% of customers expect brands to understand their individual needs. Blue Goldfish makes the business case for leveraging technology, data, and analytics to create a competitive advantage and increased customer loyalty. It shares cutting edge examples and insights from over 300 examples from the Blue Goldfish Project.
TAKEAWAY: Actionable strategies to turn big data into useful data to improve the customer experience
 

RED GOLDFISH: BECOMING A FOR-PURPOSE BUSINESS TO WIN THE HEARTS OF EMPLOYEES AND CUSTOMERS

Red Goldfish will be the fifth book in the Goldfish series. It reveals how purpose is changing the way we work and how customers choose business partners. By 2020, there will no longer be a distinction between for profit and non-profit companies. Businesses will either be seen as “for-purpose” or “not for purpose.” In the book Stan Phelps and Graeme Newell share lessons from the Red Goldfish Project. Cutting edge examples that reveal the five ways businesses can embrace purpose to drive employee engagement, fuel the bottom line, and make an impact on society.

TAKEAWAY: ​Actionable ways to leverage purpose for all stakeholders in the business

PINK GOLDFISH: AMPLIFYING WEAKNESS TO STAND OUT IN A SEA OF SAMENESS

Pink Goldfish will be the sixth book in the Goldfish series. It is based on the simple concept that what makes us weak also makes us strong. Smart businesses don’t shy away from weakness, they double-down and amplify them to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. The book by Evan Carroll and Dave Rendall will share lessons from the Pink Goldfish Project, showing business that what makes you weird is what also makes you wonderful.

TAKEAWAY: Actionable ways to differentiate yourself in business

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – here is a video by Stan Phelps that describes some of the concepts around the Goldfish series:

The Purple Promise raises the service bar and recognizes employees @FedEx

A place where exceeding expectations is the goal

Green Goldfish #907 – FedEx

FedEx believes that getting it right in the small, day-to-day ways is just as important as the heroic and dramatic “saves.” They believe their ability to build customer loyalty is the measure that drives both employee pride and competitive advantage.

The FedEx approach takes shape in the “Purple Promise.” (Source: PDF FedEx) It’s one of the rare examples that directly effects both customers and employees. Therefore, its included in both the Purple Goldfish and Green Goldfish Projects.

fedex purple promise green and purple goldfish

So, what is the Purple Promise exactly?

Here is a Q&A on FedEx’s site talking about the Purple Promise:

Q. What is The Purple Promise?
A. We are united behind one promise:

I will make every FedEx experience outstanding”

The promise is simple, but its effects are far-reaching. Our promise unites us across regions, roles and companies. When we live the promise, we create a powerful advantage that separates us from our competition.

Q. How is The Purple Promise Recognition and Rewards Program different from other FedEx awards?

A. It’s the only corporatewide program that publicly recognizes and rewards our shared commitment to customers, both internal and external. And it’s the only program that allows us to honor each other using the same criteria and awards, regardless of our job description, operating company or region. All of us have an opportunity to be recognized when we live The Purple Promise.

To keep The Purple Promise, we must:

  • Do whatever it takes to satisfy our customers.
  • Always treat customers in a professional, competent, polite and caring manner.
  • Handle every customer transaction with the precision required to achieve the highest quality service.
  • Process all customer information with 100 percent accuracy

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here’s the very purple story of Tony Turnage:

All of the examples in this post were taken from the  Green and Purple Goldfish Projects. The Projects are a quest to find 1,001 examples of marketing lagniappe for employees and customers. They are the little signature extras given that  help differentiate a company, reinforce culture, increase retention and drive positive WoM. The book, “What’s Your Green Goldfish?” will be published on March 29, 2013.