Not Just Any Old Alarm Clock

Calvin Klein has a women’s fragrance called Obsession Perfume. It’s relatively inexpensive – around 20 bucks or so for a 3.4 ounce spray bottle. This blog is not about the perfume but it is about a particular type of “obsession;” one that is worth far more than 20 bucks.

What dominates our thoughts as entrepreneurs? Is it cash flow? How about the competition? Maybe it’s growth or perhaps it’s market share. Most of these aspects aren’t worth becoming obsessions. In fact, there is very little that rises to the level of importance to be worthy of obsession. Yet, there is one element that is so fundamental to the success of our businesses that it should be front and center as a focal point. You might say it’s the “Obsession on a Pedestal.” Everyone throughout the organization starting with the CEO should be obsessed about . . . the Customer.

Well of course, you say, it’s obvious that the Customer is important. No, I’m talking about something more intense than “important.” Customer Obsession takes many forms. There are certain business establishments – stores, restaurants, gas stations, etc., where I enter the restroom and am amazed at how sparkling clean they are. And they even smell good! That’s Customer Obsession. There are certain business establishments where I am called by name when I walk in the door. That’s Customer Obsession. Or take the case of a regular customer of a resort who developed a fondness for a particular type of clock radio. She looked high and low trying to purchase one but to no avail. She messaged the resort staff to see if they could point her in the right direction but was told that the clock was not commercially available. She was pleasantly surprised on her next visit to find a clock radio waiting for her as a gift upon her arrival. That’s Customer Obsession.

Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could create a culture where everyone is equally obsessive about the Customer? This utopia would have every member of the team smile and greet a Customer in a friendly manner when in his or her presence. This utopia would be a flurry of random thank-you notes, thank-you calls and other forms of true expressions of gratitude to our Customers. When a mistake occurs involving a Customer, our culture encourages a quick, heartfelt apology and a genuine attempt to make amends.

When I think about Customer Obsession, I want to know exactly what the Customer needs and wants. This requires a deep dive into data and other methods to understand what makes the Customer tick. And I want to go way beyond understanding what the Customer currently needs and wants. I must determine what his/her future needs and wants are going to be. I want my Customers to seek me out and tell me that they aren’t just satisfied. No, I want them to tell me that they are fulfilled beyond their wildest dreams.

I want to know when a Customer quits and why; and then I want to make a supreme effort to save that Customer and regain his or her trust. I want to talk directly to our Customers on a regular basis to understand as much as I can about the experience we have provided them. I realize that the cash flow, the competition, the growth and the market share are all secondary to Customer Obsession. Those aspects of our business will be fine if we have an ever expanding base of Customers for whom we are fanatical about making ecstatically happy. Finally, I want to constantly innovate with an eye on how to better serve the Customer. Running in place is not an option. We can and must always do better for the Customer’s sake.

Many obsessions aren’t necessarily healthy. However, obsessing about our Customers will help ensure that our business is healthy and prosperous for years to come.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 54 – Blind Pigs.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Thank You Fitbit!

I’m going to confess something in public right now. I’m obsessed. Ever since I got a Fitbit in August 2013, I’ve become more and more a slave to this device. I started with the basic unit and upgraded to the top-of-the-line Surge as soon as it came on the market. I created a spreadsheet on which I record my daily step count and miles walked (think I’m a little OCD?). Early on, when traveling if I found myself short of hitting my step goal, I would walk hotel hallways and stairwells until the Fitbit buzzed my achievement. More recently I continued to push for higher and higher daily step counts – 20,000, then 25,000, then 30,000. At this point in time I average 20,000 to 21,000 steps each day. I’ll park my car in the farthest reaches of the parking lot to get more steps. It’s comically absurd the lengths I’ll go to increase my step count.

Walking has been mostly a beneficial experience for me. Fortunately I picked something healthy over which to obsess. Along with eating properly, walking has enabled me to lose a lot of weight. It’s great to get outside in the fresh air and I tend to listen to a wide range of podcasts and some terrific music. I guess I’m glad that I didn’t choose to obsess over an ultra-expensive hobby or something riskier like sky diving or helicopter skiing.

However, the fact remains that walking is still an obsession for me. So I started to wonder how I might channel this persistent fixation. And I’ve finally decided that walking 20,000 steps each day is probably sufficient. I don’t need to try and push my average to 25,000 or even 30,000 – though I’ve actually contemplated both of these goals. I know that my personality is such that I will always obsess over something. It might as well be something even more productive than walking. Thus, I started a process to discover a new obsession.

Intentionally searching for an obsession is more than a bit bizarre. But I knew that I wanted to settle on something profound. Then I had an epiphany. One of our corporate core values is Customer Fulfillment – We Strive to Exceed Our Customers’ Expectations. Why not focus my obsessive energy on Customer Fulfillment? This notion began to resonate with me and I became excited over the possibilities. The challenge is to keep from having an artificial mindset about this. My obsession over walking is totally natural – can my obsession about Customer Fulfillment be just as natural? I resolved to make it so.

It is a fascinating experience to consciously and purposefully channel one obsession into another. I’ve only been doing it for a few months. But every time I walk, I find myself thinking about Customer Fulfillment. Ideas flow freely during these twice daily wanderings. Many notes are made on my phone to be fleshed out later. I’m now adding some podcasts with a customer-centric flair for my listening pleasure. Walking has become the trigger for the focus on this new obsession. I think this is the real key. If we want to channel an obsession into something productive, a trigger of some sort is needed. It also needs to become a daily practice. If I only walked three or four times each week the trigger effect would be less pronounced and I doubt that I would be able to transfer the walking obsession into that of Customer Fulfillment. I’m not going to stop walking, but now I ‘m inspired to walk for a different reason.

Obsessions can often be destructive. Fortunately there is a way to channel them into productive endeavors if we resolve to do so. Thank you Fitbit!

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.