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Tom Peters - Atlanta Growth Summit: Why the Customer Comes 2nd and Other Nuggets.

Last week I spent 3 days sharpening the saw. In addition to two days with some of best business thought leaders of our day, our Gazelle’s coaches also spent a full day and more discussing best practices and ways to improve our coaching techniques with our customers.
Over the next several blogs I intend to impart to you some of the best of these speakers, although you may find this to be a little disjointed. Please forgive me if so. I took notes and wrote as feverishly as I could, in some places you may need to connect the dots; however I hope I can offer some insights to help you with your business.   
The headline speaker for the 2 Day Fortune Small Business Growth Summit was Tom Peters. If you don’t know who Tom Peters is you’ve probably never been through a major recession either and Tom’s message was clearly a warning, that if you’re not concerned by the major waves in our economy and in the stock market you had better wake up and pay attention.
By the way if you wish to see Tom Power Point presentation you can pick it up at our gazelle’s website at: Fortune Small Business Growth Summit, Atlanta, GA, in the middle column, under October 27. Just be forewarned that much of the slides never made it to this audience. He had much more content than he was able to present in the 2+ hours that he spoke.
Tom Peters had lots of golden nuggets in his speech, which as you can probably tell was very pragmatic. He mentioned more than once that he’s really no expert and that his message is nothing more than telling us things we should know, but too often forget the importance of. Or as Tom put it he believes he’s nothing more than a charlatan, “I’ve nothing to say, just reminding you of what you already know.”
Tom offered a simple message from the doctor who made the first successful kidney transplant. He simply did more operations and discovered what worked. While those who were working on the same thing spent their time in research and trying to figure it, he was busy performing operations learning what did and didn’t work. Sounds like Edison’s theory for discovery the incandescent light bulb, or that tried and true wisdom, if you want to succeed, fail more often.
Tom recommended we spend an inordinate amount of time during this time frame intensely concentrating on our customers. Costumer contact will bring with it an unfair share of the business. Some of my best costumers are already working very hard at doing this, so I felt good when I heard this.
One of the companies he discussed is Larry Janesky’s Basement Services Inc. They’ve grown from $0 in 1990 to $13M in 2003 to $62M in 2007. Larry’s secret, “You don’t have to love what you’re doing, you have to love what others hate to do.”
He reinforced the idea of MBWA “Managing By Walking Around” a metaphor for being in touch. Tom Peters offered this quote from a banker, on what it takes to be a good loan officer, “Tom let me tell you the definition of a good lending officer. After church on Sunday, on the way home with his family, he takes a little detour to drive by the factory he just lent money to. Doesn’t go in or any such thing, just drives by and takes a look.” Would that Wall Street, Fannie May and Freddie Mac have only heeded this advice several years earlier.
Tom cautioned that the only deep blue ocean is to “out execute the people!” He cited Starbucks as an example of a company that imploded without any major competition as a good example of this. Don’t lose your execution touch. Internal operations excellence is the only true deep blue ocean.
I have lots more to share with you on Tom Peters' presentation. Two quick additional thoughts from the speech, one from Les Wexler, Founder, Chairman, and CEO of the Limited, who in 1984 was invited to the White House for a dinner and sat next to Henry Ford of Ford Motor Co. Les felt out of place in this setting yet he learned one valuable insight as he sat for 3 hours listening to Henry Ford. It was what Henry Ford didn’t say that offered the insight. For 3 hours Henry Ford never once mentioned cars. He never once mentioned in his people. Is it any wonder Ford is where it is today? In Search of Excellence [Tom Peters' first book] in 1982 offered these insights: Focus on People, Customers, Action and Values. 
     Excellence1982: The Bedrock “Eight Basics”
1. A Bias for Action
2. Close to the Customer
3. Autonomy and Entrepreneurship
4. Productivity Through People
5. Hands On, Value-Driven
6. Stick to the Knitting
7. Simple Form, Lean Staff
8. Simultaneous Loose-Tight
One final thought from Herb Kelleher, and his complete answer, upon being asked his “secrets to success” “You have to treat your employees like customers.”  Or as Hal Rosenbluth and Diane McFerrin Peters authors of Good Company: Caring As Fiercely As You Compete would say, “The Customer Comes Second: Put Your People First and Watch ’Em Kick Butt!” 
That’s it for this blog. By the weekend I hope to have more including the best definition for what a business enterprise should be, a HR secret for selecting candidates for employment, the number one cause of dissatisfaction in your business, and two markets if you’re not looking at you should be giving serious consideration to. [Hint it’s not China, India or the Internet]

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Positioning Systems helps business owners and entrepreneurs transform their business.   We provide the tools and coaching to help you take control of your business -- rather then having your business control you.