D'Arcy from Winnipeg
Solution Architecture, Business & Entrepreneurship, Microsoft, and Adoption

Good Business Is Built on Relationship, not Commodity/Need

Thursday, May 26, 2011 10:08 PM

A Parable:

A woman walks into a restaurant (a real greasy spoon, burger-and-fries type of place), where she’s greeted by the owner.

“Hello, and welcome to my restaurant! What can I get for you today!”, the owner asked.

“Well”, says the woman, scanning the menu, “What exactly is the ‘Diet Platter’”?

The owner chuckles. “Oh, well that’s our big burger combo, with fries and a milkshake”

“Well what’s ‘diet’ about that?!” she blurted out, genuinely annoyed.

“Uh…well, there isn’t anything…its a joke! We call it the diet platter because its anything but.” explains the owner, a huge smile on his face.

The woman is not amused. “That’s horrible, and borderline false advertising! If you’re going to say something is diet, then it better be! Do you know how much trouble cola manufacturers would get in if they put out a non-diet soda that claimed to be ‘diet’?!”

The owner sighed, and said “I’m sorry ma’am, but maybe you should try eating at a different restaurant tonight.”

The woman was floored. The NERVE of this man! She turned and stormed out, almost knocking over the couple walking in.

“Oh hey guys,” the manager greeted them with. “Are you having the usual? By the way, how did that big move of yours go?”

The Morals

The burger place in my story is actually real, and that exchange was relayed to me by someone who ate there…yes, its a true story. Before the current owner took it over, it was run by a woman who was rude to her staff and her customers. She was there to sell burgers and that was it. In contrast, the new owner sells burgers but also remembers customer names and what they order. Apparently its not unheard of to walk in and hear him say “Are you having the usual today?” and get it right!

There’s two types of businesses out there: one built on commodity and need, the other on relationships. Commodity and need focus on things, cost, availability. Relationships are focussed on people, value, and mutual benefit.

Over the last 19 years that I’ve been working (not just in IT, but in hospitality and elsewhere), I’ve realized that one type of business weathers time and grows both in terms of business relationships and the quality of people they employ. Hands down, a relationship-based business will carry higher returns beyond the number on a bottom line.

That’s the first moral.

The second moral goes hand in hand, but from the other way. The commodity-based business doesn’t care about you as the person, they just want your money. And they don’t care how you treat them, because their goal is to get your money. Working in fast food restaurants in my youth, I experienced this first hand. Do not underestimate the grumpiness of old people who line up at a McDonalds at 6 AM. And PERISH THE THOUGHT of you opening the wrong door first to let the *other* seniors in first (yes, this actually happened). But, through all the incredibly stupid and incredulous people that complained, I grinned and bore it…because all that mattered was that they ordered again and we got the money.

Alternately, the relationship based business realizes something: there are customers that are not a good fit. The relationship based businesses puts people ahead of commodity moving, which means that you need people who are interested in your skills and abilities beyond a price and timeline. Relationships need to be two way, they can’t just be one way. Even as a customer, there needs to be some give beyond the money being exchanged for a product or service. An understanding that a transaction is mutually beneficial, and why its mutually beneficial. The customer as an active role, not just a recipient. Not all business is good business, and being able to stand behind your work at the end of the day has just as much value to a relationship-based business as the number of widgets that got sold at the commodity based one.

I’m planning a trip to this burger place to see if it lives up to the hype. I’ll let you know how it goes.


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