Tagged: shared values

Sixty (iii)

He paused again. I think I mumbled something like ‘right, yes, I think I see what you’re saying’, if only to utter the sound one expects from the to and fro of conversation.

“And now I can answer your question.”

I had, to be honest, slightly lost sight of the question and I was thankful when Saket repeated it.

“Why do I relegate customer-centricity? To answer that, let’s first return to the definition of marketing: the process by which companies create value for customers and build strong customer relationships in order to capture value from customers in return.”

I indicated I was holding on to the thread.

“Let’s abstract that a little and see where it might take us. What if I said it like this? The process by which thingummies create value for wotsits and build strong relationships in order to capture value from wotsits in return.”

This time I gave Saket a look I’m sure wasn’t flattering.

“Seriously. Stick with me,” he said. “Let’s do some word substitutions. How does this sound? The process by which employees create value for companies and build strong relationships in order to capture value from companies in return.

“Or how about this? The process by which companies create value for investors and build strong relationships in order to capture value from investors in return.”

I half-smiled.

“In other words, every single individual, for each of her many roles in life, seeks to establish relationships to create value, of one sort or another. And perhaps the very definition of a sustainable relationship, and perhaps of society itself, is when such value creation is mutual.

“Today, as nascent as it is, VRM looks to equip individuals in their role as customer. A fork from it – government relationship management – is looking to help individuals in their role as citizen. Longer term, we’ll simply seek to equip and empower and liberate the individual across all her roles in life – customer, citizen, employee, vendor, supplier, investor, family member, friend, custodian of the planet, etc. You can’t call this a business domain or government domain – although business services will evolve to meet the need of course. This isn’t something I believe you can just label ‘social’ either. This is the human domain.

“Networks of these newly emancipated individuals join together more freely to create sustainable value, and they are motivated to stick together as long as that value creation is mutual and appears equitable and competitive, and so long as our values align too.

“Now allow me the license to describe Attenzi a little differently. Some participants in one particular network have chosen to brand the network Attenzi. Mutual, sustainable value is generated within this Attenzi network, within this system, and no one individual or category of individuals can do it without others playing their part – the right mix of others at the right time. It’s a natural law. It’s all in the mix. Ignore this, or indeed attempt to act otherwise, and you wither – particularly when facing off competition that does get it.

“That’s why I relegate customer-centricity.”

“Wow. Thanks Saket. Never a dull moment!”

I knew I was going to have to think about this some more. “So where can I sign up for some VRM?”

Forty seven (ii)

“How can I put it?” he continued. “Food is life. Food is health. It’s family. It’s social. It’s cultural. It’s creative. And it’s business. It’s everything you describe in your aspirations for Attenzi.”

Now we understood. Genius. I knew immediately that this should play a central role in the new direction for the business, and then Dom double-confirmed the matter for me.

“Do you recall our conversation about Wikipedia Eli, about how communities need a common set of values, held dearly, in order to come together to do great stuff?”

“I do, and I see where you’re coming from, or in fact going to,” I replied.

It seemed so obvious that it was suddenly shocking to consider the pervasive way we all thought about Attenzi up to that point. We generally thought in terms of what it does – the design and manufacture and servicing of kitchen equipment. We had, in that customer-centric way, considered that we gave our customers great kitchen equipment that should delight in terms of quality, usability and value. But we didn’t really think in terms of what it actually does for them – helping them cook great food and everything that this means to them. I’d talked about being in service to others in concluding the away day but the penny clearly hadn’t dropped entirely.

You’ll recall when I first introduced you to Vincenzo that I’d come to think of him as a management guru.

It turns out social business isn’t so new. Great restaurateurs have been doing it for centuries. OK, not quite as we’ve defined it here – not the heavy focus on information and communication technologies and science and scale and agility and openness and data acquisition and knowledge management – but playing to the communication norms of their times and situation, in their authenticity being plain to see and their quality being evident to taste; in reality unavoidably being perception.

They know their suppliers and their regular customers in a way that other businesses have lost with scale. Their restaurants are both workplace and home from home.

The first three of the influence flows (between the organization and stakeholders) are real-time and palpable: empty plates, or not; happy diners or not; good tips or not; repeat custom or not; great teamwork or not; loyal staff or not; a profitable night, or not.

The fourth, fifth and sixth influence flows (between competitors and stakeholders) are apparent too: through daily word of mouth; through eating at their establishments; by looking through windows; by monitoring reviews.

Above all – although it does sound kind of odd to write it down and, if I’m honest, perhaps a bit, well, soft – it’s all very human.

I called Dom and Jigya a taxi at 1am. They were the last to leave. As I prepared for bed I realized I didn’t know much about the company’s founder, Attilio Enzo. I’d heard reports of boundless energy and enthusiasm. He’d come close to losing the business at one point. His photo hangs in reception. And he’d passed away in 1990 a few days before his 70th birthday and a month after the company launched its first product range for the home kitchen. That was all I knew.

I wondered if he’d ‘got’ some of this stuff, and whether business had just knocked it out of the business, if you know what I mean.

Thirty five (ii)

In other words: “Do I like their values?” and “Do they share my values?”

ACTION: Review current statement of values and how well it’s understood by employees and conveyed to others through our actions. Michelle + Tom.

Thirty five (i)


Branding has come a long way since it originally meant burning one’s mark onto livestock to assert ownership. Today, the layman often uses the word to mean a company or product logo, but many recognize it to be so much more than that.

The brand encompasses what it means to interact with a company, to buy their product. The brand helps describe how a company does what it does. It sets expectations for quality and experience, and the company has incentive to live up to its “brand promise” because its name is stamped on it, and therefore any over- or under-achievement will be attributed to the “brand equity”, impacting customer loyalty and future success accordingly.

Michelle introduced us to the concept of a brand as a “nexus of values”, where nexus means a connection or series of connections linking two or more things, values in this instance. What does this mean?

Well, rather than just becoming a loyal customer based on Attenzi’s consistent design and manufacture of great kitchen equipment, or satisfaction with our post-sales service, it means the customer understands and has affinity towards the values driving Attenzi’s business, informing how it undertakes its business.

Attenzi doesn’t make cars or run schools, but if the nexus of values is crystal clear to us and to the customer, we should all have a clear and common appreciation of what an Attenzi car or school would be like.

Michelle finished by explaining why this latest evolution in the meaning of brand is important. In short, while ‘poor’ products still exist in some markets, we live in an age where product quality (ie, fitness for purpose, living up to the expectations set) is increasingly simply presumed – witness our disgust when the odd exception disrupts this happy situation. Whereas during the best part of the 20th Century quality was a differentiator, it is now a qualifier. Failure in this regard quickly leads to reputation damage, to business damage.

The discerning customer can now look beyond the immediacy of the product or service they’re consuming. They can and do ask: “Do I like this company’s attitude towards the environment / sourcing / equal opportunities / etc.?” And: “What’s their wider contribution to society?”

Thirty two (ii)

Of course, any corpus compiled by many thousands of volunteer authors, mostly unknown to each other, is going to be flawed. But perhaps the most surprising thing isn’t the number of holes you might want to pick in it, but the fact that it exists at all and serves as one of the most useful resources to begin one’s research into an incredibly diverse range of topics. One of the most interesting descriptions of Wikipedia I’ve heard invoked on several occasions is this – it isn’t perfect but it is totally awesome.

So how did Wikipedia resist the polarization that ravages many a chat room and public forum rendering them of no value to anyone but the so-called ‘trolls’ who appear to relish the downward spiral?

Dom and I reckon it’s a combination of a number of qualities of the Wikipedian community and a set of founding principles they collectively hold dear.

Even I’ve edited a few entries on Wikipedia if only because I was intrigued by the fact that I could. For example, I found myself stumbling over some grammar and a typo on the entry for asparagus (yes, I went there to read more about what Gurdev had been saying at Vincenzo’s), and one minute later I’d corrected the typo and improved readability. Strangely satisfying.

It helps of course that the Wikipedians exercise that apparent human need to be critical of others, but do so constructively by weeding out bias and conflicts of interest and weak copy in their pursuit of a common purpose – namely, the creation, development and maintenance of the world’s best encyclopedia.

So Dom and I ended up concluding that the potential for the successful, the useful and valuable application of social media and related technologies is considerably enhanced when the associated community shares common purpose and values. We didn’t have any evidence, just our ad hoc observations of the world.