Saturday, 15 December 2012

Core business

I have a theory that the success of every business can be reduced to a single key measurement. For every organisation there should be, if my theory is correct, one way of telling whether they are a success or not.

The first one I ever thought of was about bars. I was a regular at a particular bar in Gaborone that was renowned for being a bit of a disgrace. They occasionally allowed some of their thirstier patrons to get out of control, the décor was shockingly bad and the service was often slow. However they always, without fail, got one thing right. The beer was always cold. That’s why we regulars were there al the time.

If a bar can’t do that, then surely nothing else can work properly. Serving cold beer is the fundamental purpose of a bar and if they can’t get that right then it’s not a functional bar.

The challenge of my theory is to find the core measurement in other organisations. What’s the ONE thing that judges whether your company is functional?

A few years ago we heard from a reader who had visited one of the major spicy chicken outlets in Gaborone. She’d gone there hungry for spicy chicken, one of those cravings we all sometimes get. But she was to be disappointed. The spicy chicken joint had no chicken. That presumably is a textbook case of a failed organisation. I know they probably had a delivery of chicken, their core product, shortly afterwards but I don’t think that’s a forgivable offence.

It’s probably easier in a conventional restaurant. Spicy chicken outlets serve, despite minor variations, just one product. Restaurants usually have a broad menu with a vast range of choices. It’s more acceptable to be told in a restaurant that they have no chicken today because you can always choose beef, fish or pork. There are alternatives.

What a restaurant has to do, the ONE thing they have to focus on cooking food hygienically. Anyone who’s watched the Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares series on DSTV will know that this is not always the case. The scariest thing is that the horrors you see in that program are in restaurant kitchens when they new a premier chef was about to turn up with a film crew and show his program all over the world. If they couldn’t clean up the kitchen and get rid of the vermin and hygiene crimes then what’s it like in non-televised restaurants like ours?

The ONE thing that measures the success in a restaurant is the delivery of food that pleases the customers. Friendliness, courtesy, décor, location and atmosphere are all important but not as important as that one basic objective. It’s why a chain like Wimpy does well. Their food isn’t the most advanced, the most delicious or the most healthy, it’s just the most consistent. Of all the restaurants I know it’s the one I hear people complain about the least. We’ve probably all visited a Wimpy restaurant in various locations in Botswana, probably in South Africa as well. The only thing that ever varies is the accent of the waiter. Everything else is consistently identical.

I heard from someone else recently who had experienced a corporate failure. He wanted to buy a new SIM card so went to a store belonging to one of the major network providers, it doesn’t matter which one. Once he got to the front of the queue he politely asked for his SIM card only to be told: “We don’t have any”.

Cellphone network providers are not in the business of selling phones, their core business is selling people the ability to use their network. You can’t do that without a SIM card. Having no SIM cards is like the spicy chicken joint having no chicken. Just close shop and go home until you get some.

We had a complaint a couple of years ago from a reader who had recently bought something from a major furniture store. For whatever reason she returned it and they agreed to give her a refund. That was nice of them except for one small matter. They had no money.

They weren’t bankrupt, they hadn’t gone out of business, they still existed. They still had all that lovely money they made from selling cheap tat at exorbitant prices on credit. The store just didn’t have any cash and they couldn’t figure out a way to repay her. A store without money? Just like a spicy chicken joint with no chicken.

All of these cases are, I think, examples of a business failing its core mandate. Every organisation should surely spend some serious time trying to work out what its core business is. Then you need to invest everything you have in that aspect of your business or those things that directly support that core business. If you consider spending money on anything in your company, ask yourself first whether this will directly improve the quality of your core business, or at least help you support that core business. Improving the quality of customer care is great because that will help you improve the way in which you deliver spicy chicken, but even that isn’t as important as being able to cook spicy chicken when a customer wants some.

Next time you consider spending your company’s money on some ridiculous conference, a fake “only if you pay for it” excellence award or a shiny new “rebranding” exercise, consider instead spending it on your core business like chicken or SIM cards. It will be worth it and it’ll make your customers much happier and much more likely to give you their money!

No comments: