Unlocking Potential: 1 Inconsistency

Your business is threatened every day by inconsistency. Whether yours, your employees or your suppliers. 

 The good news is you have high levels of influence over all of them. Whether you choose to exert that authority depends heavily on three factors.

 One. Do you see the inconsistency? Until you define what you expect of each group, yourself included, you can not judge whether your business is meeting your standards. Or whether those standards are realistic. Or fair.

Two. Have you articulated your expectations? In the very early days of establishing our first business we were negotiating the purchase of a million dollar’s worth of film editing equipment. I told the sales rep that we were looking for a fair deal. But more importantly a relationship with someone who would treat as as partners. Honestly. And transparently.

Two weeks later, after extensive sessions of back-slapping and promises, I discovered he was selling us technology that was about to be replaced by a significant upcoming upgrade. When I confronted him, the cost to his credibility was far greater than the cost to his bottom line. And he spent the next decade working to justify my decision to give him a second chance.

We got better pricing and better service than any of our competitors. The latter being much more important when you’re running your own service business.

Three. Are there consequences when people fail to meet those standards? Consequences can take many forms. The willingness to have an uncomfortable conversation. The confidence to fire an employees when it is clear, for whatever reason, that your standards and theirs don’t match. The courage to hold yourself publicly accountable. And most powerfully the ability to fire clients whose standards undermine your own. Whether in their economic or inter-personal valuation of you and your employees.

Every day, we have a choice. To build this business. Or to do something else.

Every day we choose the former, we should make sure the things we do are actually helping to create the business we want.

The alternative is destructive.

And a waste of time. 

Dance and Yodel. Why Books Aren’t In Trouble. But The People Who Sell Them Are.

I went to Barnes and Noble this morning. I was one of 35 people standing outside waiting for them to open.

Where else in Manhattan, I wonder, did a retailer draw a crowd today without a free giveaway involved?

No one went to the cafe. No one went to music and video. Two people headed to the magazine sections. And the rest of us went looking for books.

45 minutes later, I walked out with four. Thanks to no-one and nothing. Except my perseverance and determination.

In the business section, an employee stood at his counter drumming his fingers on the counter-top. Loudly. I think it was loudly. It was hard to hear above the noise of the phone ringing beside him.

I turned to the computer help centers. Helpful. Provided you know the precise spelling of author. Or book. Luckily my iPhone Google search interpreted my attempt, and corrected me. No inter-device cut and paste, however. Dutifully I tried again. The book was in stock, one aisle over.

Except it wasn’t. I tried to decode the cataloguing system. An explanation somewhere would have been helpful. Even if I can’t re-sort by clicking a column header, understanding how you’re trying to do it would save me the trouble of figuring it out for myself. Alphabetical by title? Ah, by author. Except here and here and here. And in any event, my title and author exist in neither.

Another staff member walked by. I looked up plaintively. Without breaking stride she asked me if I needed any help. “I’m looking for the Art of Seduction,” I said, more loudly than I cared to. Based on her response, I’m fairly sure she hasn’t read it. Though I sensed she knew where it was. Her gesture had a number of interpretations, one of which was to duck. But as she disappeared round the corner I gave one last hopeful glance in the general vicinity of her final indication. There, a single copy, lay forlornly and ironically by itself. Clearly, sympathetic presentation of the merchandise hadn’t been on that morning’s staff meeting agenda either.

If you’re going to sell something, sell it. Use technology intelligently, find people who care, train them properly and worry about the details.

Demand is out there for all kinds of things. But if it matters more to your customer than it does to you, their standards will eventually decide if you’re in business.

Google just announced the launch of their online book store.

How much is a Kindle?

5 Things The Airline Industry Has Taught Us About Better Business

The airline business is pointless.

If there was any kind of alternative to traveling further than 250 miles, we’d all take it. And celebrate.

Instead, we game the system to get the lowest fare possible, hope our upgrade clears, and try to make sure there’s internet access on board to help us forget that as an indicator of man’s achievements, air travel is our only major innovation that’s going backwards. Having experienced Concorde, that’s a realization that hits me every time I fly.

Fifty years after the Boeing 707 was heralded as the first jet airliner, we still fly at exactly the same speed that modern miracle achieved on its maiden voyage. 591 MPH. Imagine where things would be if technological achievement had remained frozen in 1959. Today, New York to London is still 6 hours, give or take, depending on the jet stream.

Maybe that’s the real strategy behind global warming. Heat the planet, create violent weather conditions, jump on board the jet stream. It would make more sense than anything else those that run the airline industry have offered as business rationale.

Let’s look at just this decade. Since 9/11 the industry has:

  • Gone through five Chapter 11 reorganizations

  • Supported two mergers

  • Eliminated about 250,000 jobs

  • Been responsible for a mountain of debt and pension defaults.

If over that same period you ignore the tens of billions of dollars written off to goodwill write-downs, and the hundreds of millions of dollars of reorganization costs, then the airline industry only lost around $40 billion.

$40 billion. In an industry trying to make money.

With no competition.

That every one of us will have to use multiple times this year.

And yet. The most recently published quarterly reports have been met by airline executives with rejoicing over the increases they have generated in ancillary revenues. Things like baggage fees and on-board meals. United earns about $14 a passenger in those fees. They also lost $137 million in the 3rd quarter.

What they don’t know is the cause and effect of either number on the other.

In other words, they don’t know if charging for bags increases revenue or drives people to other airlines.

Seems like a fairly rudimentary piece of analysis. If we do this, will be better or worse off?

United don’t know. (No news there for the airline that came up with the profound brand positioning, Rising.  As opposed to the alternative, one presumes.)

Neither do any of its competitors. One of the many reasons why the airline industry has lost more money than it has ever made.

But the airline industry does have value. As a business model. Of what not to do.

  1. Don’t sell your services for less than it costs you to provide them. Unless you know you can raise them tomorrow. Not think. Know.

  2. Don’t build a business that is entirely dependent on any single resource, especially when controlled by a limited number of suppliers who are ambivalent whether you succeed or fail.

  3. Don’t build a business around a small group of people with highly specific, and hard to replace skills. And if you must, align their interests with yours. So that the success of the business is their business - as well as yours.

  4. Don't restrict innovation. If your business can't offer a significantly more valuable experience every three years, your customers will find someone who can. Unless you can corner the entire industry. In which case, you don't need anyone's help.

  5. Don’t focus on narrow metrics that support what a great job you’re doing while the business is falling down around you.

The truth is out there.

Just don’t expect to find it by looking up.

5 Myths About Selling A Service Business

When we started our own business, it seemed obvious that we should build it so we could sell it one day.

After all, even in the first raptures of blissful entrepreneurship, we thought it was possible we might not want to stay until the day we died.

So we did what we thought made sense.

We spent eleven years making ourselves irrelevant.

Which allowed us to sell when we were ready to go. And the company to prosper without us.

In the four years that we’ve been consulting, we’ve come across five myths about selling a business in a service industry that we would like to shatter.

1. The Disbeliever: You Can’t Scale A Service Business.

James O. McKinsey was an accounting professor at the University of Chicago. In 1926 he started a business in an industry that didn’t exist. Today, McKinsey & Company are the largest management consulting firm in the world. They keep their sales figures private. But will admit to at least $5 billion a year. Some estimates put it closer to $13 billion.

If the business isn’t scaling, don’t look at the base. Look at the head.

2. The Skeptic: Selling A Service Business Always Involves An Earn Out.

Only if you have made yourself essential to the business.

In which case, the price is depressed because of the uncertainty of what happens when you leave. And you have to stay longer, in order to extract yourself on someone else’s terms.

If the business functions perfectly without you, you get money in the bank and a great goodbye party.

3. The Talker: We’re Definitely Interested In Selling One Day. We’re Going To Start Planning For That Next Year.

Selling begins the day you start. We call it Plan The Last Day First®. It informs every decision, every hire, every customer relationship.

It costs no more to build for sale, than to build to stay. The only difference is the choices you have when the last day comes. Which is usually sooner than you can possibly imagine.

4. The Optimist: I Get Calls All The Time From People Interested In Buying My Business.

There’s a difference between buying a company. And talking about buying a company.

The first involves due diligence. A process that is invasive and uncomfortable and spends a lot of time looking at your financial statements. You’ll know when someone’s really interested in your business when they ask the third set of follow up questions. The ones you were hoping they wouldn’t.

The second involves a salad and a decaf cappuccino.

5. The Fantasist: We’re having a bad year. But if I got the right offer, I’d consider selling. 

This is actually two myths in one.

Buyers don’t buy service businesses in a bad cycle unless they can see the problem clearly. Buyers buy service businesses when things are pretty good, and they think they can run them better. Which typically means cheaper.

And unless you’ve trained other people to do what you do, the ‘right’ offer will definitely involve an earn-out. In other words, this scenario means giving your company to someone else, and then having them tell you what to do for the next three years.

And if they get it wrong, you don’t get paid.

The Sixth Myth

There is a sixth myth. It’s the one that says building a company that can be sold means you’re betraying your craft, your passion, your calling.

The alternative is closing the doors when you’ve had enough. Or dropping dead at your desk.

Which seems like a waste of a lot of time and money.

Unless you believe in fairy tales.

Money Can't Buy You Love

Chris and I were in Bloomingdale's in Manhattan last week. It was the first time either of us had stepped inside in two decades.

It's possible we'll go again. If we live to be 100.

Bloomingdale's used to be IT. When I last lived here in the early 80s it was a destination filled with atmosphere, attitide, aspiration and Big Brown Bags.

Today all that's left is the attitude.

Bloomingdale's owns Macy's. Who own Thanksgiving. And large parts of Christmas. Well, one street's worth.

Macy's is spending several millions of dollars refurbishing Bloomie's. Construction is everywhere. Which gives the impression for a few minutes that something is happening.

It is.

Money is being wasted. Display case fulls at a time. Because regardless of what they stock, Bloomingdale's staff is singularly uninterested in selling it.

In a twenty minute excursion we asked for help from five different people. To say we were an inconvenience would be to suggest that root canal during love making is a distraction. And the person who smiled at us most warmly? The man who held the door open as we left. As he pulled it closed we turned, half expecting to see the staff offer us a collective grimace before returning to the pursuits we had clearly interrupted.

Building a better business means making sure what and where you're selling comes after who you're selling to.

Because once they've walked out the door, all the fresh paint in the world won't bring them back.

Value - Part 1

In the spring of 1998, Chris and I joined a golf club in Scotland sight unseen. That is, I had seen it on television and read about it in a book. It looked and sounded extraordinary.

The initiation fee was $5,000, plus two letters of recommendation. I worried about both. Marriage was finally in the air and this was an expense and a distraction. Would it be worth it?

As humans, everything we do is based on a value matrix. Time and money are the most common. But we apply value to every moment of our existence. Is it better to be asleep or awake. To listen to music or news. Classic or rock. To eat now or later. Well or carelessly. To listen or ignore.

Each demands a judgement. And as a species, and as individuals, we have developed a sophisticated matrix that allows us to make decisions and move forward, or not, thousands of times a day. It happens at light speed and you’re using it at this moment, and this moment, and this one.

Thank you.

For deciding it's worth coming a little further with me.

At the core of this matrix are definitions of value. Sometimes sophisticated. Sometimes simplistic. Some are static. Some are fluid. Some are provided. Like the law. Some are personal. The trick is knowing when to re-assess them. A value equation in itself.

In early 1998, we plugged $5,000 and two letters of recommendation into our value matrix, added a magazine article we had just found about the Club to the soup and stirred.

Three months later we drove up to the guard gates for the first time as members and, without introduction, were greeted by eleven words. Eleven words which set a standard that, for the next nine years, never wavered.

“Ah, Mr Day. Welcome to Loch Lomond. We’ve been expecting you.”

First impressions are powerful. And set a tone. They define value instantly and reinforce it over time. As a business owner, your first impression is one of your most valuable assets. Making it powerful is under-valued by most entrepreneurs.

This, however, was a first impression of magical proportions. Our first visit. A rented car. No photograph. And four months before Google existed. As owners of a service business we were mesmerized by this small but powerful feat of customer connection.

Loch Lomond, we were soon to discover, was a place where magic happened on a regular basis. A breathtaking, romantic, timeless place where dreams came true. A real life Brigadoon. With the added benefit of five star facilities and six star service.

Driving into the stunning grounds on that first afternoon, past two of the most beautiful golf holes I had ever seen - the hills as backdrop to one and the Loch as backdrop to the other - I started to worry there had been a mistake. Could we really be members of this?

Aspiration is a delicate attribute for a business to instill and maintain. Too much and you seem aloof and disinterested. Too little and it becomes cheap glitz. Affected and inauthentic. Creating an aspirational brand requires taste. Maintaining one requires sensitivity and judgment.

As we parked the car, desperately trying to hide the accumulated sweet wrappers and empty Coke bottles of a three hour cross-country drive, we sat for a second and looked at each other. ‘Can you believe this?’ Chris asked, straight faced. I shook my head. ‘Let’s leave the stuff in the car for now until they actually let us check in,” she suggested.

When the pair of matching Range Rovers suddenly screeched to a halt on either side of our car - one for us and one for the luggage - the choice was taken out of our hands. Nonchalantly, we tried to act as though this was how we arrived everywhere we went.

Moments later we were deposited gently at a set of stone steps that led up to the most magnificent Georgian mansion I have still ever seen.

One man stepped forward from the phalanx of uniformed staff. “Mr and Mrs Day. My name’s Robert. Welcome to Rossdhu.”

He turned and led the way up. And after a moment’s hesitation, we followed. As we reached the imposing front doors, I stopped to survey the sweeping views of the Loch. ‘It’s quite something, isn’t it,” said Robert proudly.

I nodded and glanced at Chris. She smiled.

“Robert,” I said, summoning up my most casual voice. “Do you do weddings?”


My experience with Verizon last week was brought into even sharper relief by a forray later that same evening into the world of computer memory.

Buying a new computer quickly comes down to a question of how much memory for how much?

I like to work with a lot of windows open on my laptop. It mirrors the way my brain works. Overlapping possibilities. One idea feeding another. At this precise moment, I have 36 different windows open. A preference my two and a half year old Mac Book is having a hard time keeping up with. Though if I flipped it over, I’m sure I could fry an egg on the underside.

I came across a site that analyzed in extraordinary detail the pros and cons of the various configurations of laptops Apple sells today. One of the links was to a site sponsor. OWC.

I’m leery of buying third party memory for a brand new Mac. Partly for quality reasons. Partly because I once killed a hard drive adding new memory. Some things you only have to do once to leave an indelible scar. Like adding sulfuric acid to a go-cart battery. Another story. For another day.

I followed the link to the OWC website, and quickly realized here were two questions I needed answered if this was to be an option. Still feeling the after-effects of my Verizon customer service representative text chat, I hovered tentatively over the ‘Live Support? Request Help Now.’ button.

A couple of clients have asked me recently to explain our fees. Generally, I conclude with a variation of ‘We’ve paid, so you don’t have to.’

We’ve learned a lot in the last fifteen years about owning a business. And that knowledge took a significant amount of time and money to acquire. One of our skills is to extract from all of the pieces that are crucial to a specific situation.

When it comes to bad customer service, I was pretty convinced after my Verizon experience that I knew all I needed to know. Another bad tech chat was not how I wanted to end my evening.

In the end, curiosity, my insatiable friend, won again and I clicked the button. Firmly. If one can interact firmly with a piece of binary code.

What followed lasted ninety seconds. It will take you ten. And if you have another minute to spare after that, follow the link. As a lesson in customer service, it will take some beating.

But I hope you’ll try.


Charles: I'm interested in buying RAM for a new MacBook Pro

You are now speaking with Morgan Gray of Technical Support 7AM-10PM CST.
Morgan Gray: Hi Charles
Charles: Hi Morgan. If I buy the MBP with 4GB Ram and buy the 8GB upgrade kit from you, do I invalidate my Apple warranty?
Morgan Gray: No, upgrading the ram with 3rd party memory that matches all of Apple's specifications does not void the AppleCare warranty
Charles: And yours does match their specs, right?
Charles: Is it hard to install?
Morgan Gray: It meets all of Apple's specs.
Morgan Gray: It's relatively easy
Morgan Gray: We have installation videos available here:
Charles: Ok. Great. Thanks. One last question. If you were not using it for big media files, or rendering etc: but wanted a really fast computer, would you buy it with this 500GB Serial ATA Drive @ 7200 rpm or the SSD drive for $700 more?
Morgan Gray: I would buy it with the most basic hard drive Apple offers and then upgrade it to something larger myself
Morgan Gray: Also a relatively easy install
Charles: Ok. Thank you. You've been incredibly helpful. I'll buy the Mac and then come back to you and buy the memory.

Service Not Included

Among the extraordinary benefits of the technological age are the opportunities it gives business owners to provide exceptional customer service.

And exceptional customer service is the surest way to separate yourself from the competition. A subject I blogged about a few weeks ago.

Of course, any opportunity to excel also offers a company the chance to demonstrate, in ever-more spectacular ways, the scope of its customer service shortcomings.

Tonight, I wanted to activate call forwarding on my home phone. A service that my Fios package summary says is included.

After a 30 minute odyssey through the swamp that is Verizon’s web site (the more you struggle you more you find yourself in the same place) I finally hit the button that said, “Have a Question? A live representative will help you.”

What followed was a 40 minute descent into madness.

It was not that the representative did not want to help. It was that he had not been trained to help.

So, when you decide to offer your customers’ service, I have but one word of advice.



A Verizon Service Representative will be with you shortly. Thank you. (18:10:00)

Agent Dean has joined. (18:11:00)

Dean : Chat ID for this session is 07230911976. (18:11:00)

Dean(18:13:11): Hello. Thank you for visiting our Verizon chat service. How can I help you place your order?

You(18:13:55): I want {to activate} call forwarding.

Dean(18:14:16): I will be happy to help you with that.

You(18:14:20): My account summary says it is part of my package already

You(18:14:26): Verizon Freedom Essentials $49.99


Call Forwarding - Busy/Don't Answer



You(18:14:48): Is that true?

Dean(18:15:14): Included means you are not required to pay additional charges for this features.

You(18:15:43): Great. But it doesn't work.

Dean(18:15:48): You can add your calling features and then click on the next button to proceed and then on your Review order page click on the check out button to to proceed.

You(18:17:01): When I do that it adds $5.75 amonth to my bill.

Dean(18:18:37): Okay, it means this feature is not included.

You will see your calling features charge on your order page. On the Review order page click on the check out button to proceed and then fill all required information then click on the next button to proceed.

You(18:19:51): So 'included' means 'not included'. I see that's very clear.

Dean(18:20:16): No, you will see charges on your order page it means this feature is not included.

Dean(18:20:41): To add this feature you will need to complete your online process.

You(18:20:59): So the statement on my account summary page is not true?

Verizon Freedom Essentials $49.99


Call Forwarding - Busy/Don't Answer



Dean(18:21:09): To proceed with your online process click on the check out button and follow the online prompts.

You(18:23:18): So, pay $5.75 a month for a service that is already included in my agreement because it's not included? Just so I'm clear. Is this a one-time deal or are all Verizon packages structured like this?

Dean(18:24:03): NO, for included features there is not additional charges, you may add other additional features along with your included one.

You(18:24:41): My included one is 'call forwarding.'

You(18:24:56): But you're telling me there is an additional charge for that.

You(18:25:02): Which is it?

You(18:25:13): If it's 'included' there's no additional charge.

You(18:25:26): If there's an additional charge it's not included.

You(18:25:39): In which case, why does it say it's 'included'?

Dean(18:27:20): Thank you for your patience, I was checking on your questions.

Usually call forwading option is chargable so it is not included.

You(18:27:50): But it says it is included on my account summary.

You(18:27:54): Verizon Freedom Essentials $49.99


Call Forwarding - Busy/Don't Answer



Dean(18:29:19): Would you like to add call forwding feature with your service?

You(18:30:50): My account summary says that it is included.

You(18:31:13): Verizon Freedom Essentials $49.99


Call Forwarding - Busy/Don't Answer



Dean(18:31:28): After selection of your features you will see your package /calling features charges on your Review order page before you check out.

You(18:32:06): Dean - you have spent 20 minutes not answering my question.

Dean(18:32:57): I apologize for any inconvenience, I am not intend to provide you any kind of hassle.

You(18:33:00): This is a waste of time.

You(18:33:16): My account summary says Call Forwarding is included

You(18:33:26): If it is included why do I need to add it?

You(18:33:43): And if I add it why should I apy more for it if it is included?

You(18:33:49): Can you answer that?

You(18:33:56): If not, I give up.

Dean(18:34:52): Let me inform you, Your current features reflect as Existing features ( not included features)on your order page.

You(18:35:49): What?

You(18:36:19): When is an Included feature not an Existing Feature?

Dean(18:37:39): Included means you can get however, it does not mean that you have selected those features and you already have those features. However, let me send you a separate link for calling features so you can get better idea.


You(18:39:30): This takes me to the Verizon home page

Dean(18:39:50): Yes, select home phone option then select calling features options.

You(18:40:07): Do you have a link to the AT&T residential phone service website?

Dean(18:40:49): I can assist you for Verizon services at this time.

Then enter your Zip code and then click on the submit button to view all calling features.

You(18:40:49): There is no Home Phone option

You(18:41:46): I don't need to know whether Call Forwarding is available. I need to know why, if it is included in my account summary, it is not a feature I can access.

Dean(18:42:16): Are you able to see Red bar below the Verizon logo?

Dean(18:43:42): I understand your concern however, it might be an error since usually these feature is chanrgable.

You(18:44:21): There are no words to describe this experience.

You(18:44:25): I surrender.

You(18:44:29): Verizon wins.

Dean(18:46:31): Again I apologize for any inconvenience.

You(18:46:31): I'll just leave a note on the fridge and hope anyone who calls sees it.

Dean(18:48:46): Let me provide you a contact number if you want to call our local Verizon business office.

Dean(18:49:12): You can call us at our local verizon business office at 1 + your area code + 890-7100.

Dean(18:49:22): You can call on this number between 8 AM to 6 PM from Monday to Friday.

You(18:49:33): Thanks, but no. I've aged enough already.

You(18:49:38): Good night.


People. People Who Need People.

We have an apartment in Manhattan. Great location. Great views. But the best part. The doormen.

We had a chance to move a few months ago. Better location. Same amenities. A bit cheaper.

I stayed because Jose, Chris, Nelson, Dufresne and Euder make me feel I’m coming home every time I walk in.

Doing so is a simple formula. They remember my name. They remember Chris’s name. And they seem genuinely pleased to see me. Every time.

That cost the building something. Hiring people with the right personality. Training them. Managing them. Giving them technology that identifies residents easily. Staffing properly so that they have the time to be welcoming. Serious thought went into this. Great service is not an accident.

But great service is the difference maker because it appeals to a basic human need to belong.

Even when we know money is the motivator, we choose the places that make us feel we’re part of the fabric over their better but disinterested competitor.

In an era when change is the currency of the moment, change anything that prevents you from being happy to see your customers.

Or they’ll find someone who is.

The Best Business Is In The Eye of the Beholder

I don’t read USA Today.

Its bite-sized editorial style limits the depth of its reporting. There are better ways to get in-depth analysis on the stories they cover. And faster ways to get the box scores. In the real world it suffers from being inconvenient and a limited experience.

Chris, my wife and partner, does.

But only when she flies. And then from cover to cover. Because in that environment it is convenient, and its broad approach to news gathering becomes a vibrant alternative to anything else you might do. And inevitably she teaches me something when she’s finished.

Back in 2006 she taught me about fidelity and convenience. An article in that day’s edition by Kevin Maney introduced the concept to us for the first time. We were fascinated then and I’ve kept it in the back of my head until now.

Kevin’s thesis is that when consuming media, we instinctively evaluate the fidelity of an experience in the context its convenience. Watching a live U2 concert is high fidelity but low convenience. Transistor radios are low fidelity and moderate convenience. The theory goes that iPods took off because they filled a gap. Better fidelity than other portable alternatives. Incredible convenience.

And the same applies to movies. The initial introduction of television in the 1950s decimated movie box office sales. In 1950, three billion movie tickets were sold in the U.S. Ten years later that number had halved. By 1970, it was down to a billion. The movie industry’s response was to use emerging technology to create special effects blockbusters and big-scale productions that television couldn’t provide. You may have seen Star Wars.

By 2003, movie sales were back up to 2 billion a year, - despite the fact that everything on tv was now in colour, there were hundreds of channels and portable sets would fit in your jacket pocket. The TV manufacturers responded by improving home viewing systems so that movie night at home was a higher fidelity experience and then let convenience tilt the equation back in their favour.

The movie industry’s response? 3D iMax. Fidelity. Pre-assigned seating and in-seat waitress service. Convenience.

Anyone in the advertising and creativity on demand business instinctively recognizes the ying and yang of this. Traditional advertising is moderate to low fidelity. But convenient. Excessively so, in that we can get as much of it as we want whenever we want. In that industry the challenge is to improve the quality of the user’s experience while making advertising more convenient to the recipient - on their terms. After all, advertising is most convenient when we’re in the market for that which is being advertised. Or in the mood to be wooed. Good luck to whomever is working on that algorithm.

But I think the fidelity and convenience equation has an even more powerful role to play in designing better businesses. Which is one of the things I care about most.

Think about your business for a second. Do your customers have a high fidelity experience when they work with you? Or do you provide convenience?

Not sure? Or worse, do you think it’s both? Whatever your answer, your customers do not use use you because you are both the best and the most convenient.

In which case, you have a big opportunity.

If you provide a service, I believe it’s important to aspire to be the best. Those standards keep you moving forward. Keep you looking to improve.

But if you sacrifice the opportunity to be more convenient to your customer in the quest of being the best you will ultimately lose. Because someone will come along who is as good, or nearly as good, and more convenient. And that combination wins 9 times out of 10.

The only way you win by being the best is if your pricing premium is high enough to offset the 9 opportunities you are losing. In this economy, that won’t work.

So look at all the ways in which you can become more convenient to your customers. Think about your business from their eyes. What would make their lives easier - the ultimate definition of convenience.

Provide that without lowering your standards. And you might just create that 3D iMax in my living room experience that I’m waiting for.