In almost every book I’ve ever written — and there have been
quite a few at this point — I quote the best business advice I have ever
heard. It’s from my friend, Dr. Michael
LeBoeuf, from his work that was originally titled, “The Greatest Management
Principle in the World.” Here it is:
“Behavior rewarded is behavior repeated.”
The problem — and wisdom — in this phrase is that it’s so much more profound than it originally appears. Of course, it means that our customers and employees will repeat the activities that we compensate them for executing.
However, more subtle is that it also challenges us to
question: What actions are we rewarding?
For example — we want sales professionals to establish
relationships with customers rather than pressuring them into a solitary closing.
Yet, when we examine their compensation structure, we find there’s no
additional incentives for future purchases.
In other words, we give lip service to how important that
on-going loyalty from our customers. However, when we examine what we reward,
it appears our focus is on closing (through any means available and ethical) a
My friend, former Chief Customer Officer at Microsoft and
Lands End, Jeanne Bliss, often mentions in her presentations the story of the
hospital that posted every physician’s evaluation from patients and their
families. The result was that malpractice suits dropped by 43%. When receiving
high marks from patients and families was rewarded, doctors responded — to the
benefit of hospital, physician, and (most importantly) customers that are
That’s the challenge that
I make to you. Take a bit to re-evaluate what you’re rewarding and examine if
it’s congruent with your goals and aspirations for the future. My guess is that you’ll find some
If you resolve it, you’ll be rewarding the behavior and
activity that your desire. It’s an
important step to creating distinction!
As I write this, I’m on an airplane flying from Sydney to
Hong Kong. And, as I follow our journey, I see from the map from the screen in
front of my seat that we are about to cross the Equator.
When I was a kid in Crothersville, Indiana in our grade school
geography class, the Equator seemed about as far away to me as the moon. In our
small classroom, we studied tropical climates, the Equator’s global
positioning, the countries above and below it, and the differences in weather and
seasons between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
Yet, I have to admit, it never occurred to me there in my
wonderful rural hometown, and with the circumstances that surrounded me, that I
would ever actually cross the Equator in person, as I have now done many times.
The first time was when I was invited to be a part of the
Indiana Trade Mission to Brazil. I had just left office as the State President
of the Indiana FFA (then the Future Farmers of America), and our Lt. Governor
Robert Orr thought that the trade mission he was leading to Indiana’s sister
state in the southernmost region of Brazil would be well served to have a
student representing young Hoosiers. And, thankfully, he selected me. It was a life-changing experience — not in the
least because I was the only teenager as a part of an adult group of
I grew up on that trip in many ways. It was my first
experience in being a part of serious business meetings. It gave me the
opportunity to see how economic leaders and governmental authorities conducted
business. I even had a short conversation with the President of Brazil.
Many years later, I’ve lost count of how many times that
I’ve crossed the Equator for business —and even a small number of times for
pleasure and vacation.
The main point is this: what
seemed so unreachable for me at one point in my life later became
achievable…then, somewhat normal.
What’s YOUR version
of the Equator? What seems unattainable
for you in life right now, given your current circumstances?
My message to you is that what seems so far away now truly
is possible to achieve. It might take a while — it was a decade between the
young dream of travel and the crossing into a new hemisphere for me.
However, I would be willing to wager that if you take the
dream…and add hard work, planning, and execution…you, too, will find the
reality is superior to the fantasy. I
truly hope you do.
You’ve finally realized that your business is a “show business”…explored how your customers have changed…and accepted the challenge to deliver them with the “Ultimate Customer Experience” that they demand.
Yet, a critical question remains…
How do you connect with your customers and employees during these crazy times?
How do you communicate and establish those critical emotional connections with them?
How do we grab the customer’s attention?
You take the “High Concept” approach.
The High Concept is a short, powerful, attention-grabbing phrase that interests and involves your audience.
“Bomb on a bus.”
“Clown with a red balloon.”
“Kids bring a board game to life.”
“Shark attacks terrorize a small ocean community.”
“Teenager travels back in time and back again using a car.”
“A band of unlikely companions on a quest to destroy a ring.”
“A small group of soldiers must find the lone surviving son of a family and escort him safely home from World War II.
How long did it take you to guess that I was talking about Speed, It, Jumanji, Jaws, Back to the Future, Lord of the Rings, and Saving Private Ryan?
These phrases are proof that the “High Concept” works. They could even be as short as one word. The mere mention of the word “Shark!” evokes the image of the movie, Jaws. Just saying “Genie” makes you think of all the wishes you could make as Aladdin did…while hearing “Iceberg” instantly makes you relive the horror of the Titanic sinking.
There’s power in communication. These short phrases or even single words can make you feel a range of emotions because they make you remember a movie that left a lasting impact on you.
The same concept can be applied to business – in your “show business.”
Domino’s revolutionized the pizza business with their simple High Concept. Thanks to Domino’s, we expect all pizzas to be delivered in “30 minutes or less.” We may even ask the delivery guy from an entirely different pizza chain if our pizza is free when they arrive “late.”
When we say something “keeps going and going and going and going…” – do you expect the Energizer Bunny to suddenly pass by in front of us and interrupt our conversation? Even Gatorade has somehow taken the word “quench” and made it their own, and now we feel that only a brightly-colored sports drink can truly satisfy our thirst. And when you hear someone tell you to “have a break,” do you suddenly want a Kit-Kat?
The High Concepts are more than just taglines, they’re powerful words or phrases that have been ingrained in our minds and taken on a life of their own. In many cases, these brand High Concepts have become more popular than the brands themselves.
The best High Concept statements are incredibly difficult to craft – but powerfully important to have.
Because your High Concept should describe the lifeblood of the unique culture and offerings of your company, it must become something that has deep and lasting roots in your organization.