Category Archives: Business


“The customer is always right.”

However, I know companies that treat their employees better than their customers.

Being a client, my intuition about this posture is one of annoyance. But rationally:

  1. This is easier to scale with the business (assuming the business model is profitable).
  2. The fact that employees are treated better than customers does not mean that customers are not treated well; in fact, the more logical prediction is that as employee happiness increases, so too will customers get better service.
  3. If employees are unhappy, it’s more difficult to increase the quality of service for the customer.

The direct path is not always the most sustainable.

Photo Credit: Beegee49 Flickr via Compfight cc

Lead With Generosity

Yesterday I wrote about how the ethical path to be taken by digital services is to demonstrate utility with a generous trial mode. From there, if the product really delivers on the promise, it will have long-term customers.

The waters get muddied somewhat when there’s a human being involved, putting hours in. But they needn’t be. Even as a person offering a service, it’s possible to build trust before asking for cash. I used to offer coaching (and stopped doing so because I didn’t want to commit with more people that I could responsibly serve) and my line was:

“Look, you can read my free material and apply it and that will get you 90% of the way you want to go. If after that you still feel I can contribute to your journey, I’m happy to take your money!”

The effect that this had was that when my clients were ready to pay me, they had already had results and knew I was the real deal. Conversely, if someone tried the material and it didn’t work for them… Well, why would they want to be my clients?

The key here is that they had the possibility to find out if we were a match or not before money changed hands. Of course, not every business model is amenable to this approach – but I believe most are.

Painting: “The Hermit, or the Distributor of Rosaries” by Jean-Baptiste Greuze

Workplace Serendipity

Centralization and transparency enable a kind of serendipity that can lead to breakthrough results. 

For example, your lead programmer may come up with an innovative solution to the problem that’s been blocking the marketing people. But he can only do this if the marketing team has their discussions out in the open, not siloed inside their little marketing kingdom.

And transparency is hard. But there’s something even harder: making people care.

Even if the discussion is public, the developer has to care enough to look.

It’s not enough to make your company’s processes transparent; you need employees who care.

That’s what culture is for.

Painting: “Mercury and Argus” by Peter Paul Rubens