A hierarchy of failure worth following

Not all failures are the same. Here are five kinds, from frequency = good all the way to please-don’t!

FAIL OFTEN: Ideas that challenge the status quo. Proposals. Brainstorms. Concepts that open doors.

FAIL FREQUENTLY: Prototypes. Spreadsheets. Sample ads and copy.

FAIL OCCASIONALLY: Working mockups. Playtesting sessions. Board meetings.

FAIL RARELY: Interactions with small groups of actual users and customers.

FAIL NEVER: Keeping promises to your constituents.

The thing is, in their rush to play it safe and then their urgency to salvage everything in the face of an emergency, most organizations do precisely the opposite. They throw their customers or their people under the bus (“we had no choice”) but rarely take the pro-active steps necessary to fail quietly, and often, in private, in advance, when there’s still time to make things better.

Better to have a difficult conversation now than a failed customer interaction later.

Seth Godin


What’s included?

This is the pricing question of our time.

First, from the buyer’s point of view: when I buy this car/boiler/phone, how much are the services that come with it going to cost me every month, forever?

We stand at the Verizon store agonizing about the extra $34 in posted price for one phone over the other, then sign a contract for $2400 in fees.

We are attracted to a car with a rebate, not caring about the $2000 extra in lifetime gas costs.

More and more, the thing we buy isn’t a thing, it’s a subscription. The thing might as well be free.

And from the seller’s point of view?

When you sell me that low-cost email service, did you also just get yourself on the hook for a lifetime of free support? What’s that going to cost you?

When you take her reservation at your hotel, are you prepared to do all the work and attention you need to get a decent review on TripAdvisor? Ready for your CEO to take a call in the middle of the night, ready to comp meals, scramble teams of reps or engage in months of correspondence with that customer? Because that’s all included in your marketing costs now, isn’t it?

I recently hired someone to do some research and brainstorming. The first stage of what might become quite a bit of work. I was sort of amazed at the end of the short project… he asked me if I was happy with what I got, and I said, ‘no.’ He said, ‘sorry’ and walked away.

On one hand, this is dumb marketing, because he’d already done the hard work of establishing a customer, and wasn’t particularly interested in turning that customer into a happy referral.

On the other hand, the old school decision to view a transaction as a transaction, time to move on to the next, is getting more and more rare. Perhaps it’s an intentional act on his part, a way of doing business in the moment, without investing in or worrying about what comes as a result.

Seth Godin


Howard-Hilton-Herb. Howard Schultz, Starbucks founder, visits 25 stores a week. Master hotelier Conrad Hilton says his only advice is “Don’t forget to tuck the shower curtain into the bathtub.” Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher says his only advice is “You have to treat your employees as your primary customers.”
My translation, more or less “all you need to know to succeed”:
Stay in touch. [Howard]
Sweat the details. [Hilton]
Put your people first. [Herb.]

K = R = P
Kindness = Repeat business = Profit

Say “Thank you.”
If you can become a full-fledged “professional” listener and master the arts of appreciation and apology [accountability], you will be 75 yards down the 100-yard path to success.

“What do you think?” = Arguably the four most important words in business/leadership success.

The successful person’s “top 2” key traits.

Vigorous action-relentless experimentation = [Only] effective foundation of progress, personal or organizational.

(This is RFA’s necessary handmaiden.)

Return On Investment in Relationships.
Medium- to long-term: Relationships = Everything.
Hence: Purposeful investment in relationships is the most important “ROI.”

Internal customers are more important than external customers when it comes to execution.

And, of course, always to be repeated in this space as my “signoff”:

If not EXCELLENCE, what?
If not EXCELLENCE now, when?

Tom Peters