Do you remember when the first McDonalds opened in your hometown?
In Yorktown Heights, NY, that was in 1976. The red neon sign out front said, "Over 6 Million Served." I just turned 16 and could legally apply work, so I landed my first coroporate job cooking hamburgers.
On a regular basis, the manager on duty removed unsold burgers were from the warming bin, and put them in the trash. The procedure was called "Waste and Loss." As a 16-year-old male with a voracious appetite for anything remotely edible, I couldn't understand why a company would routinely and religiously throw away food that was only cooked a couple hours earlier. Sure, those burges didn't taste as fresh as the burgers that just came off the grill, but in my mind, they was perfecty edible.
Customer Loyalty and Reputations for Quality don't happen by accident; they happen and grow over time, by continually adhering to those short-term decisions that seem hard to make, and harder to live by.
(When I speak of "quality" here, I'm not talking about nutritional quality; I'm talking about quality of product and service delivery; the ability to set expecations with your customers, and rigorously stick to a certain process so that you can deliver on those expectations over and over and over; so much so, that trust in your ability to deliver become part of your brand.)
In this blog post by Seth Godin, he points to the difficult short-term decisions that a company needs to make, in order to produce consistent quality, reputation and branding.
I recently drove past that same McDonalds where I worked 38 years ago. The sign out front no longer says "Over 6 Million Served." It now says "Billions and Billions Served." Throwing away a perfectly-good hamburger may seem foolish in the short-term, but done for the right reasons for more than 38 years, it's built one of the most famous brands in the world.
What are the "hamburgers" in your business?
Do you have the guts to throw away your less-than perfect hamburgers in order to build a better reputation?