Finding Insight in a Box of Matzah

Greetings. For most of us in business today, selling our products and services is one of the greatest challenges we face…even when we have pretty darn remarkable offerings. After all, most customers have lots of choices, plenty of information, and only so much money to spend. Yet, in our wildest dreams, we fantasize about our ability to create products and services that will literally sell themselves. Products and services that are so unique, so intrinsically valuable, so totally cool, so compelling, and so essential to life on the planet that our customers simply can’t live without them. Products and services that seem, up to a point, to defy the laws of cost, competition, and even nature.

Yes these products and services do exist, but they are few and far between. Still we marvel at the brilliance of companies like Apple, Tesla, Airbnb, Under Armour, and even Lululemon before we could see through their clothing. Companies that inspire us to think that we, too, might also reinvent our industries in ways that really matter.

So imagine the challenge of trying to sell a product that is not only very old but hasn’t really changed much since the time it was invented. And when I say old, I mean really old. Like 3,500 years old. And as for innovation, which most of us assume to be a vital ingredient of business success, the only major change has been its production methods which were initially quite crude and crafted more out of necessity rather than a carefully developed plan.

Then let’s add to the equation the simple market reality that most customers only buy this product for seven or eight days a year. And that the folks who buy it represent one of the smallest market segments on earth. Now add to the mix the fact that there are plenty of competitors fighting for this modest market and using the same exact ingredients to make products that few customers would ever suggest was awesome.

Okay, so I’m talking about matzah. A product that is somewhat popular during this spring holiday season. The “bread of affliction.” An edible tribute to the exodus from Egypt in roughly the year 1,500 B.C. (or B.C.E.). A staple of the Jewish holiday of Passover that only a limited number of people have been chosen to eat. Sure anyone could buy it, and you could certainly eat it the rest of year. But let’s be serious. In a world filled with freshly-baked bagels, pumpernickel, croissants, brioche, baguettes, and even English muffins or Martin’s potato rolls, who (in their right mind) would opt for matzah?

And yet, the folks at Yehuda Matzos have somehow managed to be voted Numero Uno in the world of whole wheat matzah. And one taste of their crisp, beautiful, and rather ancient-looking treat confirms that they have magically figured out how to turn whole wheat flour and water into a veritable taste sensation. In fact, their matzah is different and each year compels me to imagine what it must have been like wandering through the desert with Moses hoping only to find a bit of advice from God and an oasis where they sold premium quality peanut butter.

Which leads to one simple idea. No matter what you do, commit to being the best you can be! Because every company, product, service, or even individual has the potential to be remarkable in ways that really matter. Even if the heart of your “offerings” is all about authenticity or a certain biblical requirement. The most enduring businesses, offerings, and people are the ones that consistently figure this out.

Yehuda Matzos

We win in business and in life when we commit to being #1 in something worth doing. And when we understand what is truly possible for our products, services, and customers, more deeply than anyone else.

Cheers!

Go Big or Go Home!

Greetings.  One of our son Noah's favorite phrases is "Go big or go home!"  It's a notion that is quite popular on the local playgrounds where Noah and his friends try to hone their basketball and soccer skills.  But it's also a phrase that applies quite well to the rest of our personal and social lives, and to the work of our companies and organizations.

In Noah's mind, "Go big or go home!" means trying your hardest and doing your best.  Or has he likes to say:  "If you can't give your all then why should you even show up?"

Push yourself.

Be bold. 

Try something new and daring. 

Test your limits. 

Leave your mark.

From a business perspective,"Go big or go home!" is also a very powerful call to action.  A challenge to make sure we are bringing our very best to every customer, employee and partner.  That we are bringing our best to the products, services and solutions we offer.  That we are bringing our best in designing and delivering the most valuable and compelling customer experiences.  That we are bringing our best to make sure that all of our employees are engaged and given the resources and support to think in new and big ways.  That we are bringing our best to every partnership worth having by leveraging each of our strengths in unique ways.  That we are consistently focused on unlocking the real genius in ourselves, our organizations and the world around us in order to be more remarkable.

Because if we don't someone else will.

So what is your big move?  And when will we get to see it?

A-go-big

We win in business and in life when we are determined to "GO BIG!"  We can always go home once our important work is done.

Cheers!

The Wonder of Burritos

Greetings.  There's always a line at Chipotle when I take our son Noah and his soccer buddies to any one of this fast food chain's locations.  No matter what time of the day.  No matter what location.  A line that often stretches out the door.  But no one seems to mind.  In part it's because the line moves rather quickly.  In part it's because there is a sense that the burritos are relatively healthy.  And in part it's because Chipotle's food is fresh, appealing, tasty and gives the customer a sense of engagement in its preparation.  But it's also because of the company's commitment to serving "food with integrity"–a commitment defined as "finding the very best ingredients raised with respect for the animals, the environment and the farmers."

And this combination has enabled Chipotle to literally reinvent the notion of "fast food" in an industry that has been synonymous with unhealthy, highly-processed and not particularly engaging.

So if you're looking for a new formula for success in your tired, saturated, highly-commoditized and established industry, you might want to spend an hour having lunch at Chipotle–and figuring out through your eyes, ears, noses, hands and taste buds the secrets to their success.  Then try to imagine how you might inject new energy, engagement and a greater sense of integrity in the work that you do and the products, services and/or solutions that you offer.  

How you might help customers to make a stronger connection with your belief in the right way to do the things that matter most.

Chipotle 2  

We win in business and in life when we combine our creative offerings with the highest values.  And when we wrap our most compelling value proposition inside the comfort of a warm burrito.

Cheers!

Best Innovations of 2010

Greetings.  Popular Science magazine has just announced its picks for the 100 best innovations of 2010, and the list might be a perfect starting point for thinking about how to unlock the true potential of your company and its offerings.  It's also a fun place to explore what really drives technological innovation because most of the winning ideas build on products and solutions that we often take for granted–by making them smarter, faster, more versatile, much easier to use, smaller, more energy-efficient, and far more powerful.

A great example is this year's "Grand Award" winner in the health category–the GE Healthcare Vscan, a product that is revolutionizing the world of ultrasound by literally putting this powerful technology in the palm of a health professional's hand.  While ultrasound is not a new idea, having first been used in medicine in the 1960's, the clever folks at GE have made this technology remarkably portable enabling doctors, nurses, and technicians to perform important tests anytime and anywhere with a high degree of accuracy.

And it's just one of a hundred ideas worth exploring.  Others include:

  • The Groasis irrigation free plant incubator.
  • Porsche's $600,000 electric supercar–the 918 Spyder.
  • Ford's inflatable seatbelts that reduce head, neck, and chest injuries.
  • The Powermat wireless gadget charger.
  • Istanbul's new earthquake-resistant airport.
  • Orasure Technologies' 20-minute hepatitis C virus test.
  • Solar Impulse's solar-powered airplane.
  • The first 3-D plasma television by Panasonic.
  • Hydronalix remote-controlled water rescue buoy.
  • The First Alert sonar enabled pre-drowning detector.
  • Neato Robotics laser enabled robotic vacuum cleaner.

If you and the geniuses you work with are in the business of creating products in any industry, a closer look at these innovations–and all of the others recognized by Popular Science–could be a simple and engaging way to jump start thinking about how to reinvent your offerings.  And even if you are in a service or solutions business, you might want to pay close attention to the ways that many of these product ideas are changing our notion of how to create a more compelling customer or user experience.

Ge-vscan-ultrasound

We win in business by stretching our thinking about what's possible. And removing the barriers to our customers' success.

Cheers!

The Challenge of Follicles

Greetings.  It's important to have great products, services, and solutions.  And, to be passionate about the value that your offerings provide to customers. But it's even more important to offer the right solution in meeting customer needs.  Because almost every "need" or "problem" has more than one answer.  This is an important fact of life for almost every company and organization that I've had the privilege to work with.  And it's also a critical consideration in developing and implementing an effective business strategy.

This topic hit home in a humorous way last week when our children and I were reading the May issue of Consumer Reports in a quick effort to get advice on the best low-cost gas grill to purchase.  Skimming the magazine's pages we came across an article titled "Baldness Remedies."   And it caused quite a laugh among some of us.  If you know me, or have ever noticed the totally handsome pictures of me on the side of this blog, you know that I am–to use a slightly clever scientific term–"follically" or "follicularly challenged."  It's a quirk of nature and apparently a gift from my maternal grandfather who arrived in this country in the early 1900's with a dream, a single suitcase, little or no money, and even less hair.  Not that I choose to do anything about it.  Because in my worldview it's simply an important, logical, and lower maintenance step in our ongoing evolution to becoming a much more sophisticated life form.

But some people take balding very seriously and, according to Consumer Reports, fifty percent of men in their survey attempt to "mask their hair loss" in one of seven different ways.  Here's a list along with an assessment of their effectiveness:

Technique (% responding that it was "very" or "somewhat" effective)

  1. Wear a wig or toupee (65%)
  2. Shave head (46%)
  3. Dress better (46%)
  4. Exercise to improve physique (44%)
  5. Change hair style (43%)
  6. Use products that make hair look thicker (38%)
  7. Cover head more often (30%)

Based on this study, one might determine that hair loss is an opportunity for:

  • Wig makers
  • Gillette, other razor manufacturers, and barbers
  • Clothing designers
  • Health clubs
  • Comb, hairbrush, and gel producers
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Hat retailers
  • Or, no one

And, you'd be right.  It all depends on the customer, their assessment of the need or problem, and their understanding of the right answer or the best set of possible answers.

Andre-Agassi 

We win in business by loving what we provide…but only when it really is the right solution for those we choose to serve.  What's the equivalent of hair loss in your world?  And, what part of the answer are you and your colleagues willing to play.

Cheers!