My Thoughts by Rick Stephens

If Penguins Can March – So Can We

Posted in Developing Processes by Rick on the November 27th, 2006

Emperor PenguinsI just finished watching the amazing documentary “March of the Penguins” and could not help but think how incredible the animal world is. Even without an MBA or any other type of formal training, animals (in this case penguins) have somehow captured what many business owners fail to grasp, even after years of education and experience.

Over the years, these penguins have managed to evolve (read: continuous improvement) and adapt to the most brutal of all climates. Every year they leave the comfort of their home and march over 70 miles, overcoming enormous obstacles to gather in a place where every penguin for thousands of years has been born. According to the documentary, they endure temperatures of over 58 degrees below zero and winds in excess of 100 miles per hour. They do this while procreating their species in a manner that can only be appreciated by watching the movie.

We as business owners should observe these creatures and learn at least 2 valuable lessons from them. The first is the requirement to be continually improving our processes, and the second is to follow the processes with absolute precision.

Too many times, business owners run their company by “winging it.” Though they may be successful for a period of time, the odds are overwhelming that eventually they will make a fatal mistake and all will be lost. Taking our cue from the animal world should be a lesson in humility for us. The animals probably don’t understand why they do what they do; they just know that it works.

Entrepreneurs don’t need to understand why developing processes and following them work, they just need to do it. Nature didn’t happen by “winging it”, but rather methodically through continuous improvement and doing what works, every time. If penguins can march – so can we.



To Your Success -

Rick's Signature

Being Politically Correct Can Cost You

Posted in Marketing Strategies by Rick on the November 16th, 2006

I was informed yesterday that one of the major shopping outlets this year would stop greeting customers as they walk into their store with the politically correct phrase, “Happy Holidays.” Instead, they have instructed their employees to use the politically incorrect phrase of, “Merry Christmas.”

It seems that every business in the USA has changed their language around this time of the year to be inoffensive to the public by referring to the season as the holidays. We have Holiday parties instead of Christmas parties, we send out Holiday greeting cards instead of Christmas cards, and so on.

I appreciate the bold move by this major shopping outlet. Yes, they will probably get their share of criticism, but they made this move based upon a very basic business principal, market research. Through their research they determined that the consumer, on average, spends more money in their store when they are greeted with the phrase, “Merry Christmas” than they do with the generic, “Happy Holidays.”

Is it wrong for a business to remember why they are in business and to act accordingly? I think not. Every business, including yours, has the obligation to earn as much as possible for their stakeholders. The success of your business creates jobs, strengthens the economy, reduces government subsidies, and makes children happy (Merry Christmas!).

We can learn a very important business lesson here. Following the crowd may seem to be the right thing to do, but don’t fail to validate the results through quality market research. Don’t waste money or lose money because of your failure to measure results.

To everyone out there, have a Merry Christmas!!

To Your Success –

Rick's Signature

Turn Customers into Clients and Prosper

Posted in Customer Service by Rick on the November 6th, 2006

Do you have customers or do you have clients? Someone asked me yesterday to explain the difference. He claimed that it was just semantics and that basically customers were clients and vice versa. I was surprised that he felt that way, because there is a distinctively important difference between the two.

So exactly what is the difference between a customer and a client? Let’s look at a couple of examples of each, and you will understand why having clients is better than having customers.

If you walk into a convenience store and buy a cup of coffee, are you a customer or a client? You are a customer, of course. If you go to a lawyer’s office and hire the attorney to represent you, are you a customer or a client? In this case, you are a client. Some might discern that the difference is whether you provide a service or a product. But no, that is not it either. Here is another example. If you go to a car wash and get you vehicle cleaned (a service), are you a customer or a client? In this case you are still a customer. If you go to an insurance agent and purchase a life insurance policy (a product), are you a customer or a client? I would call you a client. So the difference is not whether you provide a product or a service.

The difference is the relationship you have with the person buying from you. Clients make a commitment to buy your product or service from you on a long term basis. A customer is a hit and run type buyer. If you cater to customers, you have to be continually searching for them. Clients on the other hand don’t need to be replaced as often, and they will generally pay you more for your product or service.

If you strive to turn your customers into clients, you will work less and earn more. Will the next person who buys from you be a customer or a client? You decide.

To Your Success -

Rick's Signature