19.04.2012 General Business, Leadership and Leadership Development, Talent Management and Development 2 Comments

Apple does it right

Okay, so why the Apple ode?

I’m typing this on my latest of new Apple objects, a 15-inch Macbook Pro. The machine looks beautiful. The keys are sensual. The internet screams on it. All my old files “just work” on it. So what’s that got to do with anything? This is a business and leadership column, after all!

Well, you see, I originally went to upgrade my seven-year-old computer, thinking I’d buy something cutting edge and current, like an iPad or a Macbook Air, but maybe save a little by purchasing from another company (of which I’m a shareholder). (That I’d be purchasing an Apple product was decided–I’m firmly anchored to their ecosystem. And I’m not a shareholder!) I’ve read lots o’ stuff online about specs and performance and features and thought I had a pretty good handle on the benefits and drawbacks of the product line. I’ve purchased a couple of iPads for the fam. Now it was my turn to get hip with the latest and greatest.

I went to my local Big Box Electronics Retailer where they wear blue and yellow shirts, fully expecting to buy there. I “hailed” a sales associate after a few minutes of looking at the machines on my own. She was pleasant, although I got the feeling she might have been heading somewhere else to do something else, rather than stop and speak with me. With little direct eye contact nor facial expression and frequent interruptions, she “listened” for a minute or two (which felt like 10 or 15 seconds to me), and made her recommendation. Rather than the shinier toys I coveted, she recommended the Macbook Pro to meet my needs, and called her manager over to confirm this. This rec made sense to me, given what I said I needed to do with it (though I was a little disappointed!). And the price was actually lower than offered on Apple’s site, so the “yippee, I’m getting a deal!” sensation made me feel alright about it.

The floor associate wandered off to do something else, and the manager began verifying pricing, filling out the paperwork–and heavily pushing add-on support services and warranties (“What happens if you drop it? This will protect you! And there’s no deductible each time, so you can drop it as often as you like! For Three Years!”) Final pricing was more than I was hoping to spend, but still within budget. Told him I’d think about it.

The next day, I’m near the Apple store in the mall and had some time to kill. With no intention of buying that night, I wandered in, near closing. Friendly greeter at the store’s front introduced me to a smiling associate to help me. Kirsten listened–really listened–to my story. My experience. My challenges with the present equipment. What I was hoping to accomplish and my needs. Even my desires to own the hipper new products! She looked at me and listened. And listened some more, engaging in back and forth with targeted questioning to balance the listening.

After several minutes of letting me ramble (probably seemed like a couple of hours to her!) yet keeping me focused through her skillful listening and questioning, she recommended the Macbook Pro to meet my needs. Same computer. I asked about the Applecare and “What’s this One-to-One thing?” (training and support), and she described it but left it to me to think about, with no pressure. (At this point we were more than ten minutes past the store’s closing time, although I wasn’t the last customer.) The list price of the computer actually was $120 higher, although the total package with support turned out to be about the same.

I said I’d take it. (And now I was the last customer!)

What drives a business’s success?

Sales? Controlling expenses? Cash flow?

All important, and necessary. But, who’s achieving these business goals?

People. It’s the people in an organization, the employees carrying out the day-to-day tasks and activities that bring about the most desirous of business outcomes: profitable mission fulfillment. (And this applies for non-profit and governmental organizations, also, of course. The business outcome could be called “mission fulfillment in a financially meaningful way,” but the bottom line is as crucial to ongoing viability for them as for their for-profit siblings.)

And from where do the people in the organization take their cues? Leadership.

Leadership that’s value-based and congruently “walks its talk” by behavioralizing and modeling its values. Leadership that treats its employees with honesty, fairness, and respect, building trust, commitment, and engagement.

Leadership is the lever to organizational success in how it defines and lives its company’s values, and engages employees in that culture and the real purpose of the business.

2 Responses to “Apple does it right”

  1. Bob Zimel says:

    Ken, I just loved reading your well-told story about the exciting string of events that lead to your Macbook Pro purchase. Your story made me feel like I was there with you, and I could identify with you every step of the way. I loved the dilemma about wanting the cutting edge, while being frugal and sensible.

    I am sure you are still delighted with the sensuality of the keyboard. Have you dropped it yet? LOL – ” …there’s no deductible each time, so you can drop it as often as you like! For Three Years!” You cracked me up!

    Thanks for sharing.

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