Shrimp, Blenders and Southwest Airlines – When smaller is better.

He was my mentor and teacher in developing the artistry of “the  boil”.  Shrimp Boil

I blame Jim Dixon. He taught me.    

I had a day job of marketing $200 million dollars of personal computers a year.  But at night I would dawn a white apron and become. . . .Wait for it. . . .

Shrimp Boil Chef

You take a pot the size of a large microwave; add olive oil, salt, garlic, cayenne pepper, whole lemons, whole onions and lots of Cajon spices.  Bring that all to a boil and add red potatoes, corn on the cob and finally fresh shrimp.  When this boiling mass of Louisiana Shrimp Boil food is done you pour it out on a newspaper covered table and the lucky sit with drinks in hand; having personal contest of “just how many shrimp I can eat?”  The potatoes and corn on the cob drip with butter and fresh cocktail sauce awaits the arrival the delicious pink

For years I would travel to our offices across the country, conduct marketing planning sessions, go on high level sales calls and then after hours . . . cook shrimp for the employees in this most memorable and morale lifting service.  In Jim Dixon’s words (the CEO of our then multi-billion dollar company) “when was the last time the boss fixed YOU dinner?” 

Turn the clock ahead and go with me to a Shrimp Boil event last month for 61 sixteen-to-eighteen-year-olds and their adult leaders from a church.   

I had help.  I have a close acquaintance (this guy is really sharp) who was helping me keep three boiling pots going and distributing food to the crowd.  But he brought a surprise with him. 

He had a large canister of an additional spice that he had used in the past.  With a “too many cooks” look I watched as he sprinkled HIS spice all over the shrimp as it sat on the tables, waiting for the culinary attack by the hungry teenagers. 

I was somewhat miffed. I thought, “This guy is going to screw up hundreds of dollars of shrimp and food”. 

Then the light bulb went on.

He is sprinkling his spice all over the shrimp which has shells!  People then pick up the shrimp, peel it and discard the peels (and his spice).  He was adding to a product and the customer didn’t care.  They were after a different value.  They wanted the shrimp meat, not the shells.

What are you doing to your products and services that is adding costs that the customer does want, doesn’t need?

Our blender broke.  We replaced it with a high end product.  It cost more than its pioneer forerunner and yet it has fewer capabilities.  The broken blender had 10 different settings.  The new one has two.  Got that? 2.  How many settings do you need to crush ice or to make a milk shake? How many settings do you need to puree tomatoes?  Two works great.   The extra eight settings were like spice on shrimp boil shells.  They just weren’t used.

A few weeks ago I was working with some associations on growing their membership.  One executive noted that the smaller companies who joined his association wanted more services and offerings than the big corporations.  The smaller organizations didn’t use all the offerings, but they wanted them none the less. The big companies didn’t need the additional offerings (i.e. shrimp spice.)  If the small didn’t use them and the big didn’t even consider them . . . why incur the additional cost?  Why incur the extra work for all the offerings the customers don’t use. 

Southwest Airlines. Reserved seating – nope.  Airline meals – are you kidding?  They cut out all the extra spice stuff and the public loves it. Give em what they want.  On time flights with courteous employees and the experience is something the customer wants again and again.

In our “life at the speed of light” world, bandwidth becomes a major focus.  Until you CUT OUT stuff, you can’t start the new, or expand and improve current strengths. 

So what ARE you doing that is a waste for your customers? What do you need to cut out to increase customer satisfaction and lower costs?  How do you find out?

If you don’t know that answer to that . . . we need to talk.  I can help, and maybe we can throw a shrimp on the barbee (smile).

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