Posts Tagged ‘passion’

Steve Jobs was my number one hero and with him the world has lost one of its greatest inspiring minds.

To me Steve was all about passion, creativity and a burning desire to challenge the conventions – and no challenge was too tough to take on. Just think about the music industry, the phone and personal computing. I, like millions of other people around the world, love his innovations, not just because they’re great. They are. They’re truly great. But on a fundamental level because they inspire us and make us feel we are part of something great. That we’re part of challenging the status quo and thinking differently.

I dare say we have a love relationship with what Steve created. Last week I gave a talk to a high school class and asked them how many of them owned an Apple product. Fifteen of them, almost all, did. Then I offered them to swap their product with a similar non-Apple product that was more expensive and had more features. Be it an MP3 player, a computer or a mobile phone. Out of those 15 students only one was willing to make the swap. The rest were so emotionally attached to their Apple products that they would not part with them. No way. And they couldn’t really explain why. Which, of course, is obvious: How can you even consider giving away your loved one.

This video ad from 1997 never aired with Steve’s voice (Richard Dreyfuss did the final version), but here’s the original Steve Jobs version. Everything that’s being said, could be said about Steve. Think Different.

Last night I finally had the opportunity to ask Alfred Josefsen, supermarket retailer Irma’s charismatic CEO, the one question I had been wanting to for a long time: “Why would your organization be missed if it ceased to exist?”. Well, it’s not the sort of question you just walk up to someone and ask. Sounds a bit morbid, perhaps. But the context was this. At an executive briefing attended by both of us we were all challenged with this one question to ask one other person in the room during the coffee break. The question is part of Jacob Bøtter’s NQ series and is also known as the obituary test.

Anyway, I (the naive, tree-hugging, time-warp hippie) was very pleased with Alfred’s answer. The world would miss a supermarket that wants to make a difference. That doesn’t go for the lowest (price) denominator and that wants to create experiences for their employees and customers alike (Irma always comes in among the top of the Best Places To Work list – and won it back in 2008). Alfred pointed to their exceptional culture and their passion to work with what they believe in. Decisions are made locally and employees have the freedom – and the obligation – to make decisions for themselves.

Hey, that answer was good enough for me.

I just retweeted a tweet by Rob Markey passed on by my colleague Jacob Bøtter that said “If every company built its discipline on the Net Promoter Score, the world would be a better place” – Graham Button #nps2011“.

Without going into the ins and outs of the Net Promoter Score (NPS) it’s a unique way to measure, not customer satisfaction, but customer loyalty. It starts with one simple question: “On a scale from 0-10 how likely are you to recommend our company to a friend or a colleague?”. People answering 9 and 10 are promoters, 7 and 8 are passives and 6 and below are detractors. The stats prove it. Promoters are your ambassadors and allies; they actively and joyfully promote your company to friends, colleagues and family. Passives do none of all that and detractors actively engage in slandering your company.

We’ve used it for a while at Wemind and more than anything else it’s one of the best ways to engage everybody in dazzling our customers. It really changes behavior – and it starts with the employees. Said John Mackey, founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market: “Business is simple. Management’s job is to take care of employees, The employees’ job is to take care of the customers. Happy customers take care of the shareholders. It’s a virtuous [not a vicious] circle.”

Being involved in impressing customers and exceeding their expectations is such a rewarding activity that it has the potential to inspire and motivate us to whole news levels. Knowing that the customer will feel the same, will indeed make the world a better place.

Values that matter

Posted: September 21, 2010 in Company culture, Motivation
Tags: , ,

My good friend Rasmus is heading up a small digital media company, Contentcube, in Copenhagen. They are by no measure a big company, but that’s actually part of the charm in what I’m about to tell you.

Recently I asked Rasmus what really differentiates them from other similar companies. The answer had nothing to do with superior skills (although I can tell it’s there in abundance) or bleeding edge technologies. Instead he said that they always do what they say they’ll do – and in their business it translates into ”on time and on budget – always”. A pretty simple differentiator and yet it’s where most competitors fail (trust me, I know) and guess what: Failure to stay on time and on budget is the number one frustration factor for customers. It’s what pushes customers away.

So how do they do it? What makes them better than anyone else? To answer that question let me tell you how they recently celebrated a successful year. Rather than just paying out big bonuses or throwing a party, they decided to relocate the whole company to Berlin for the entire month of August (which you have the privilege of being able to do if you’re a digital media company). Why did they do that? Well, for starters Berlin, to Copenhageners, is the quintessentially cool place to go if you want edge, inspiration and spot new trends. And by moving everyone for a whole month they created that good old holiday camp atmosphere, which, in a new and unique way, brought people together and created strong bonds. When I recently mentioned this to Guy Kawasaki he said, “What a great story”.

But how do they do it on a daily basis? Well, this post was inspired by a conversation I had with Rasmus yesterday. He’d been collecting good customer stories for a while and had realized that magic would arise whenever a customer was impressed by something a Contentcube employee had done. Right down to the little things such as suggesting small improvements which the customer hadn’t expected or finishing tasks or jobs early. It’s not unlike the Zappos core value of always aiming to wow their customers – and it’s the exact opposite of the commonplace “just good enough” attitude you find in so many companies. Always aiming to impress customers, walk the extra mile, try harder and wow customers, inspires employees to be proud of and passionate about what they do. And pride and passion are the cornerstones of a great company.

Contentcube now has “aim to impress customers” as one of their key targets – and it’s something they’ve started measuring. Thumbs up for that and good luck to Rasmus and his team moving forward!

For more inspiration about measuring what makes life worthwhile, check out this Chip Conley TED talk:

We had been struggling with our dishwasher for a while. Plates, forks and knives came out dull (and not at all clean and shiny the way they were supposed to). It really is a major pain in the neck. I don’t know about you, but with these kind of things I always feel it’s my own damned fault – for not rinsing the plates properly, for not using the right kind of soap, for not adding enough salt (or using the right kind of salt), dishwasher rinse, water hardness settings and what not. You get the picture.

It’s one of those things in life where you really have to rely on an expert, although in the past I have always felt somewhat at loss with dishwasher service technicians – not that we’ve had a steady flow of them – but I’ve always felt they either didn’t give a toss about me as a customer, just wanted to get the job done and out the door as soon as possible or needed to charge me an outrageous fee for something they couldn’t even bother explaining to me.

In the end we had to call Bosch (the manufacturer) and so we set up an appointment. And this is where I was taken by surprise. I’d expected the usual anonymous, know-it-all, couldn’t-care-less kind of chap, but instead this real pro showed up. I won’t bother you with all the technical details, but let me say this: After 20 minutes I felt like an expert. I really rarely come across the kind of person who displays such pride and commitment in his job – in a genuine, not over-the-top kind of way. While he was working, he explained to me about the latest generation of low-energy dishwashers, properties of different types of soaps, the workings of salt, the importance of rinsing and dishwasher life expectancies. In the end I started to feel a bit emotional towards our 6 year old dishwasher…

Anyway, the message is this: The service technician, by simply enjoying and being proud of his work, had a dramatic, positive influence on my perception of Bosch, his employer. In fact, if you asked me right now, I wouldn’t dream of buying another brand, which brings me to my last point: A great company brand is a result of a great company culture, which in turn produces inspired employees, who wow customers. You really can’t fake it.

Oh, and by the way, the dishwasher runs like a Rolls-Royce now!

Those of you who have to listen to me every day or several times a week know that my conviction is that your culture is your brand. It’s one of the cornerstones of the world’s most celebrated online companies, Zappos, it’s the foundation of Chip Conley‘s boutique hotel chain, Joie de Vivre, and it permeates all the great business minds that I know of.

Yet, for so many years it’s largely been a forgotten virtue. Companies, organizations and cities have talked about rebranding themselves as if your brand is a coat you can buy, wear and discard at your convenience. Many companies have tried and failed.

I recently wrote a post about a local ferry company, Mols-Linien, who, in their 2009 annual report, announced the biggest advertising spending ever to “rebrand” the company in order to become more profitable. The advertising campaign had nothing to do with their culture (and actually ended up insulting a large population group – which is another good story). At the peak of the national television campaign a famous TV chef decided to test the restaurant on board one of the ferries and gave it one of the most appalling reviews I have ever come across (and 95% of all online readers agreed). The food was ridiculously expensive and the quality abysmal. When I investigated further into the company, I found that the ferry company just happened to be hiring chefs for their restaurants at sea – and alarmingly I realized that chefs, among very few requirements, had to have experience with just basic cooking and have a high stress threshold. Imagine that: Unskilled chefs cooking, under stress, with sub-standard ingredients at Michelin star prices. No wonder why the restaurants weren’t doing too well – and it also gave me a pretty good impression of the type of company culture (or lack thereof) you’d find on board one of those ferries.

The case of Copenhagen
Now, this is really just leading up to the real purpose of this post: The case of Copenhagen (you know, the venue of last year’s failed climate summit, the home of The Little Mermaid, at least when she’s not abroad visiting China, and Tivoli Gardens – you get the picture).

Last year, The Danish tourist council, VisitDenmark, decided to launch a covert branding campaign (you know where this is going, right?). They hired a young Danish actress and shot a 3-minute amateur video, in which the actress pretended to be Karen, a young single mother. The video was put on YouTube and in it Karen explained that this was her last resort trying to find the father of her baby son (featuring on her lap), who was conceived with a stranger (a foreigner) on a hot summer’s night in Copenhagen. Not surprisingly, within a very short space of time the video had generated several million hits and at first people were debating the authenticity of the video and soon after who was behind the stunt. Well, within days it was revealed that VisitDenmark was the culprit and that’s when the criticism started – both in Denmark and in several other countries.

The idea was to generate traffic and attract visitors by portraying Denmark as a country with liberal, open-minded, blond people, but instead Denmark came across naive and silly (at best). Shortly after VisitDenmark removed the video from YouTube, they closed all related websites and made an official apology. The video shown above is therefore a pirate version with much fewer hits than the original.

Wearing my your-culture-is-your-brand hat I would have to conclude that the campaign had to fail (if not instantly from the criticism, then at least longer term from the fact that it was a fairly lame fake that didn’t represent what you’ll find in Copenhagen).

Cycling Copenhagen, Through North American Eyes
The contrasting video (below) by Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson, Jr. was filmed during the Velo-City 2010 conference in Copenhagen in June 2010 and released in July 2010. It wasn’t sponsored by or paid for by anyone. It’s there because of Copenhagen’s unique cycling culture. No more, no less.

The contrast to VisitDenmark’s Karen video is striking and it begs the rhetorical question: Does it make sense to spend your money and efforts on a branding effort or on creating and developing a unique culture? You see, the same rules apply to companies, organizations, politicians – and cities.

Read the growing number of comments on Streetfilms.org.

I came across this fantastically inspiring speech, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, delivered by Simon Sinek at TED last year. It blows my mind that something so obvious (Sinek’s golden circles) is so hard to accomplish. Major credits to Simon for decoding the principles by which all great leaders communicate, whether they’re business people, politicians, activists or companies.

Sinek uses Apple, the Wright brothers and Martin Luther King as examples, but he could just as well have used Jamie Oliver, who is a true inspiration to follow, watch and listen to. He gave his TED speech (below) in February after receiving the TED prize. Jamie’s *why* is that he is “transforming the way we feed ourselves, and our children”. He uses words like “I want to revolutionize”, he is authentic and he is passionate. I suppose (no, I know, because my better half, Kerry, is a passionate food blogger on foodytwoshoes.com) there are thousands of other famous chefs out there, many probably more skilled than Jamie, but no one has defined their mission as clearly, inspiringly and with such integrity as The Naked Chef.

His is a cause worth fighting for. It evokes strong emotions in people. In fact how often do speakers at TED receive standing ovations?

Who else has a *why* worth fighting for?