Doing well by doing good
On January 21st, just in time to see the inauguration, I connected up the wi-fi at Much Ado, my favourite deli and cafe in Olney. We watched Obama’s inauguration and the owner of Much Ado, Matt Prosky, was so inspired, he invested in a brand new netbook so customers are able to check their emails while they have coffee. Bliss!
Today, I followed up what seemed to be a surprising bill from BT and with the help of James in Glasgow, we ended the afternoon by reducing Much Ado’s bill for internet services by 400 pounds (about USD600) – that is 400 pounds less than what they paid before they offered their customers wi-fi! So they’ve recouped their investment in the netbook by twice over!
I love it. Much Ado did right by their customers, and gained.
Good business does not mean being tight
So many people in business confuse controlling costs with being mean and cut-throat.
Of course, it is really important to control costs in businesses – we all know that. When margins are as low as 3 or 5%, which they often are in retail (or even less), taking care of the pennies does indeed take care of the pounds. I go even further. I think controlling costs is an act of beauty. It is almost as a form of reverence and worship, as I heard a lecturer in Islamic finance say on Radio 4. It’s fun to plan a job of work and to execute it smoothly and within budget.
But controlling costs isn’t a matter of being “tight”. Businesses do well when they do good. Business do well when they create value and wealth.
How will the internet affect businesses?
I’ve been puzzling over my own challenge to think through the impact of the internet on my profession. It is hard. I like the idea of branding work with flowers. I chose a red carnation for myself, meaning I carry a torch for you.
A second technique might be to do something for free just because you believe in it. That helps us find the core of our business – though possibly a coach would help you see it more easily (I’m not touting here – I am strictly entrepreneurial ).
My favourite deli doesn’t offer wi-fi per se. They offer hospitality shaped by the place and time in which they work.
What you do for free is probably your competitive edge
What do you do for free because you know it is right?
That’s probably the ‘competitive edge’ that distinguishes you from non-professionals who offer a similar service. That’s probably the subterranean skill which underpins your profession.
If you can tell me what you do for free, then I can ask the next question. How do we express that skill in the days of the internet?
Yes this works. How can a psychologist, for example, express commitment to their clients with internet mediated services?
What do you do for free because you know that it is right?