Michael E. Gerber: When function trumps form

To achieve a measure of differentiation that really works, how you do what you do is equally important, and in many cases more so, than the actual deliverable it produces. I know that sounds absurd on the face of it, but think about it.

July 01, 2013

We’ve discussed the first two elements of my ‘working on it’ mindset, those of the visual and the emotional, how your business looks, and how it feels. We’re now ready to address a third: how it works.

To understand process, the way results are produced, it is first most important to understand outcomes—the actual results you would prefer to produce. These results, or outcomes (as I’m calling them), exist within every component of your company’s process, from the first interaction with a prospective client, all along the value chain, to the final outcome you are determined to produce.

Remember: how you do it is what differentiates your company from everyone else in your industry. You either do that successfully, or you don’t. But, success is only measured by the impact it has on your customer, the visual impact, the emotional impact, the functional impact. An impact that your customer has never experienced before. 

Your job is to design your company so that it has that impact, that successful experience, that unanticipated result. Differentiation, in other words, is key. To achieve a measure of differentiation that really works, how you do what you do is equally important, and in many cases more so, than the actual deliverable it produces. I know that sounds absurd on the face of it, but think about it.

Imagine your first meeting with a prospective client, where your sales guy, or your proposal expert, is to sit down with your prospective client to scope out what he or she wants. Imagine that you bring a pad of paper, to take notes on. Or, perhaps, if you’re a true sophisticate, your laptop. (Just play along with me here; I know that what I’m about to posit would never happen in your business, but it does happen to most people in your business.) Imagine the pad of paper is like one your kid might buy for school, lined pages, spiral notebook, inexpensive, nothing to write home about. Or, imagine that your laptop does not have wireless, or maybe it does, but you failed to ask your prospective client whether their home is configured for wireless, and, unfortunately, it isn’t.

In short, at the very outset of your interaction with a prospect you lost the opportunity to position your company in a way that establishes your authority. Your identity. Your presence. Your influence. Your difference.

The question is then, how do you establish your authority? Automatically, without question, so that your prospective client thinks, automatically, without question, “Wow! These guys really have got their *#X! together!”

Every single step you take in your business process must be thought of like this. Yes, every single one.

That’s what I mean when I say working ON your business, as opposed to simply working IN it.

The most competitive companies do this without fail. Everyone else doesn’t. Everyone else simply works IN their business, doing it, thinking always that it’s the price, Jerry, it’s the price. We’ve got to lower the price to get more business, when in fact, despite what you may feel, it is not the price, never has been. The price only becomes meaningful when differentiation doesn’t exist.

So, function does trump form. Always. The way your process functions, how it manages itself, is what makes your company unique, just as Steve Jobs did at Apple. Look at Apple, the most valuable company on the face of the earth. How in the world did Jobs do that?

In exactly the way I’m describing to you here.  To achieve that noble objective you have to go to work ON your company, as opposed to working IN it. Just as Steve Jobs did at Apple. Step by step by conscious, deliberate, highly differentiated step. When we think systemically, we think in two ways: over time, and in time. By ‘over time’, I mean the step-by-step process of completing an objective. A process is, after all, a system happening over time, each step is a system in itself, which is what I mean when I say, ‘in time’.

A white pad of paper is a system ‘in time’. What you do with a white pad of paper happens ‘over time’. In that regard, a script you use when positioning your company is a system ‘over time’—which is a process through which identifiable objectives are achieved, benchmark by benchmark.

A benchmark is an objective, or outcome, hopefully reached as you utilize the script. For example, Benchmark One in a sales script, might be the agreement reached with your prospective client that by the time the script is done, the two of you will come to agreement about the scope of the assignment ahead. As you progress in the process, other objectives or benchmarks, or outcomes, will be fulfilled. What are those outcomes, those objectives, those benchmarks? What decisions does your prospective client need to make, in order for the impact you wish to have on him or her to be seen, felt, experienced? PR


Michael E. Gerber is author of the bestseller “The E-Myth Revisited” and 18 other successful small-business books. Currently, Gerber is working on adding to his already published series of co-authored E-Myth Vertical books. Gerber will also be a speaker at Professional Remodeler’s Extreme Sales Summit in September 2013 in Chicago. To learn more about Gerber, please visit www.michaelegerbercompanies.com.

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