Saturday, May 15, 2010

Are you a "team player"? The difference between having a job and being an indispensible asset

Results-driven team player seeks employment.  Highly effective team player.  We use these phrases so commonly in our resumes and curriculum vitae that we sometimes forget what that's really supposed to mean.

Remember Karri Strug?  Despite injury, she delivered a near-perfect gymnastics routine at the Olympics in 1996.  Quoting Wikipedia:  "The completed vault received score of 9.712, guaranteeing the Americans the gold medal.[3][5] Karolyi carried her onto the medals podium to join her team, after which she was treated at a hospital for a third-degree lateral sprain and tendon damage.[3][5] Due to her injury, she was unable to compete in the individual all-around competition and event finals, despite having qualified for both.[6]"  She put her team before herself.  She put her country before herself.  Her photo belongs in the dictionary right next to the definition of team player

Now think of the value of sports, or the military.  The focal point is learning to work together to accomplish something that's bigger than you.

So what is a job?  If you answered that you get paid to do something you're skilled at, you're only partially right.  If you're a sole proprietor, maybe that's all you need to know, but most of us get paid by someone else to do something.  Why do they pay us?  Because they have a need?  Well, yes; and now you're getting warmer, but you still don't understand the critical use case -- the reason why a job is important.

Point is this::  to be a team player, your preferences and well-being is secondary to the well-being of the team.  In baseball, if there's a key player on base, athletes never step up to the plate hoping to get walked; they try to hit the ball so that someone can run home and score a point.  By stepping up to the plate at all, they're taking a risk of getting injured, and that would be a travesty -- for the team to have lost them.  The player has to have that mentality too. 

To earn a job, you have to convince an employer that everyone in the company would benefit from having you on board.  You would provide them with something they lack today.  By employing you, everyone at the company and all of their investors would benefit.  "I have skills" is only half of it.  Can you serve your company?  Are you an asset they can't do without?  If you don't show up for work on time because the snooze button on your alarm clock is far more attractive than helping everyone in the company feed their families, you're not a team player and it would be a mistake to hire you. 

If you have children, as I do, this concept is not foreign to you; you have to get up each morning to feed your family, and though it may be painful to drop off your children at daycare, as they cling to your leg and scream "Daddy, don't go!" you know that you can do a better job as a parent by going to work and earning the money that will be necessary to provide for them.  That family team commitment does not release you from your duties to your work team, it's an additional reason why you need to stay healthy, perform your assigned duties, and pick up your kids at the end of your work day to still get some family time.  Your work enables your work team to earn money.  Your earnings at the end of the day enable your family team to support each other, provide for children, and/or allow you to live comfortably during evenings and weekends.

So I ask you again, are you a team player?  Think about it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Free Roast Beef Sandwich

This is a rant about Arby's, but like all of my rants I dig into the business reasons of where the mistake was made and what was lost.


As a special treat last week I decided to take my daughter out for a fast food lunch.  We don't do this often, and I figured this would be an opportunity for me to demonstrate to her that new foods can be delicious.

A quick look through my Entertainment Book revealed there was a coupon for Arby's.  The coupon was, "Free roast beef sandwich with purchase of roast beef sandwich of equal or greater value."  So I put her in the car, and started talking about how wonderful roast beef sandwiches, and how when I was little, we would all meet at the local Arby's (then Rax) after softball practice. 

By the time we arrived, my 3-year-old daughter was willing to give it a try as long as she still could get fries.  We waited in line, she picked out what she would want to drink, and I got to the counter and requested a deluxe roast beef sandwich for myself and an "Adventure Meal" for her, with kids size roast beef sandwich.  Apple sauce for her, curly fries for me (she could try some of my fries; they no longer carry regular fries at that location), I was given the total, and I presented my coupon.

"I'm sorry sir, but the coupon doesn't apply to kids roast beef sandwiches or to deluxe ones.  It only applies if you buy two basic, adult-sized roast beef sandwiches." 
"But you're only losing about $2 for a kids sandwich.  Normally you would lose $5."
"Sorry, sir but those are the rules.  The coupon is only good for an adult basic roast beef sandwich."
"She won't eat a full-sized sandwich even if I do downgrade mine to the basic.  Can I speak to a manager?"
"I am the shift manager."

I could have given in, and probably would have if other alternatives were difficult to get to, but I was standing in a food court in the middle of the Great Mall.  There are lots of other options, and most businesses are hurting.  Especially during lunch time on a weekday.  I suppose Arby's doesn't need my business that badly, or they want to call my bluff.

"Fine.  Then cancel the order."

The "manager" sighed and then proceeded to clear out each item individually as we walked across the food court to McDonald's.  I paid the same amount as I would have paid full price at Arby's, but I was offended that Arby's wouldn't honor my coupon, especially since I was willing to buy something more expensive than the coupon required.  My daughter did try her cheeseburger -- about 3 bites.  Oh well.

Marketing & Promotions Best Practices

Back to marketing and product management, which is what this blog is all about:  a coupon is a company's willingness to negotiate in hopes of an upsell or repeat business that will make up the cost of the promotion.  It forces the buyer to become aware of a business in their area and to try something new (as Mom always said, "try it, you'll like it!").  Buy 1 Get 1 promotions specifically are most effectively used to thin out the inventory and minimize inventory losses, though for the Entertainment Book it's usually the reason already specified above -- they want at least two customers to try something new, hoping they'll try it again.

For many promotions, the service staff then suggests an upsell option that offsets the cost of the promotion.  For me, Arby's didn't even need to convince me to upgrade; I had already chosen my upgrade; cheese-flavored sauce does not cost them the $0.75 per sandwich I would have paid (more like $0.10 if that), and they had the opportunity to lose less on the second sandwich than they ordinarily would have. 

How much more would it have cost Arby's to build infrastructure to handle more flexible coupons?  Not much.  In fact, they could have written it off as a free kids meal to make it easier on the cash register.  Here's what Arby's lost:
  • If my daughter had liked Arby's sandwiches I would have brought her back a lot more often.  Some kids are picky eaters, but at least my daughter isn't shy about saying what she wants.  If she said "I want an Arby's" I would be happy to go out of my way to get her one to encourage her experimentation with new foods.
  • I now doubt they'll honor my other Entertainment Book coupons, so additional marketing dollars spent on me will be wasted.
  • My daughter remembers the food court as the place where she got that Happy Meal toy at McDonald's and will no doubt request McDonald's next time too.
Willingness to pay has changed over the past two years.  Companies who don't adapt will find it hard to get customers.