Archives: October 2007

Relationships: A Competitive Advantage

I was eating lunch with an executive of a hotel company, in a restaurant located at one of his company's hotels. He was talking about competitive threats, describing how companies in his category are constantly copying each other's innovations. I said, "If I were your competitor, I could walk into this hotel and easily copy your physical product. I could study your service standards, and copy them too. What I could not copy are the personal relationships you have with your customers. Those relationships would be impenetrable to me."

In an age of interchangeable products and easily duplicated services, customer relationships have become one of the most powerful competitive advantages available to a business. Do you agree?


Back "Home"!

London shop window with a mannequin dressed in an array of fruit

I do love London and feel fully at home; I've been coming over here since serving a summer stint as a midshipman in the Royal Navy in 1965. I gave two speeches at the London Business Forum today, and have another two ticketed tomorrow. How I made it through, I don't know. Though still suffering bigtime from jetlag, I nonetheless stayed up, tracking every pitch in Game 4 of the World Series—Jonathan Papelbon's capper occurred at 4:08 a.m. Greenwich time, just 37 minutes before my wake-up call. It's a long way from my new Kubota in Tinmouth, VT, to the shop windows of London being dressed on Sunday—see above.

London Business Forum

The PowerPoint slides that Tom prepared for the London Business Forum are linked below. He provided us with the final version—the one he used in his presentation—and a long version for those of you who want to see more.

Day 1:
Excellence. Always. London Business Forum, Final, 29 Oct
London Business Forum, Long Version, 29 Oct
Day 2:
Excellence. Always. London Business Forum, Final, 30 Oct
London Business Forum, Long Version, 30 Oct

Podcast by Tom

Karen Salmansohn does a weekly podcast at She calls it "Be Happy, Dammit," and Tom's message fits right into her theme. So, you can listen to 11 minutes of Tom's "Extreme Success Advice" by going to and choosing his 25 October 2007 Be Happy, Dammit Podcast. Thank you, Karen!

COOL Friends!

Forget the Merry Pranksters and Jack Kerouac. Brett Farmiloe and Zach Hubbell are traveling across the country in an RV—with a mission. They are looking for people who are passionate about their work. They're hoping that by finding passion-filled professionals (and not-so-professionals), interviewing them, and publicizing their stories, they'll inspire those who haven't yet found an occupation that vaults them out of bed in the morning. Along with Jay Whiting and Noah Pollock, they are driving the Pursue the Passion RV all over the U.S. If you see it, honk your horn, and maybe they'll interview you. (Only for the next few days—their trip ends in Tucson next week.) Their website is Pursue the Passion, and we turn the tables by interviewing the interviewers here. Read the Cool Friends interview with Brett Farmiloe and Zach Hubbell.

North Mississippi Medical Center Rules!

I'm in Tupelo, Mississippi, today, courtesy the North Mississippi Medical Center. Among (many!) other things, NMMC is a 2006 recipient of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award—the "Nobel Prize of Enterprise Excellence," as one observer put it.

Now, NMMC is stepping boldly forward with an innovative health education program aimed at children in general and childhood obesity in particular. (Our HHS secretary described it as a problem that is worse than terrorism.) Called "HealthWorks," and modeled after a pioneering program invented by Memorial Hospital of South Bend, Indiana (skip the Notre Dame football quips, please), the program aims to rock the world—and, God knows, we need it.

I am speaking to several groups here, from the medical center and the community at large, and despite the cold (Tupelo is colder than Boston today), having a great time—Southern Hospitality matched with Olympian Aspirations of Excellence.

[You can get the PPT presentations with the links below.—CM]
North Mississippi Medical Center
Excellence. Always. Tupelo, MS
Excellence. Always. Tupelo, MS, Long


Last week included a round tripper to Korea. Tomorrow at 4 a.m. I'm off for a month. The weekend in Vermont was perfect—such will not be the case when I return. So, I recovered from jet lag by hitting the fields—and continuing my landscaping from dawn to dusk. (More or less.) In any event, that dented the Blogging time. Sorry.

My Hunch

While the Rockies and the Red Sox are battling in the World Series, halfway around the world the Airbus A380, courtesy Singapore Air, will make its first commercial flight.

Here's betting that when aviation history is written 25 years from now the Boeing Dreamliner will be more or less forgotten—and the A380 will get its own chapter.

I can hear the howls now—and I won't be around 25 years from now to pick up-pay off the debt, or if I am hanging in, unlike Peter Drucker, I damn well won't be prattling on about management.

In any event, hats off to recently maligned Airbus and the service fanatics at Singapore Air!

Go, Coach!

Book Cover of Bo's Lasting LessonsI must admit that, though a fanatic football fan, I find that most coaches' books leave me cold. Not so the recent offering from legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler: Bo's Lasting Lessons (with John Bacon).

Consider: "I can't tell you how many times we passed up hotshots for guys we thought were better people, and watched our guys do a lot better than the big names, not just in the classroom, but on the field—and, naturally, after they graduated, too. Again and again, the blue chips faded out, and our little up-and-comers clawed their way to all-conference and All-America teams."—from the chapter, "Recruit for Character"

I'm also 97.23% behind this one: "I've always believed eye-popping innovation is not as important as perfect execution." (Not a bad reminder in these days when it seems as though there is but one word in the manager's dictionary—innovation. Have we already forgotten Larry Bossidy's Execution?)


Steve Jobs offers us this definition of terrific design: "You know a design is good when you want to lick it." (From Design: Intelligence Made Visible, Stephen Bayley & Terence Conran)

My "lick-worthy" candidate: my Western Digital 160 gigabyte external hard drive. It is sleek and black and austere—and though I haven't licked it, I have indeed fondled it.

(And hats off to Mr Jobs and company for stupendous earnings reported the day before yesterday. The company has been loved for "cool" and excoriated for not doing as well financially as Microsoft, a direct result of Steve's often unpleasant "I want it my way" mantra. Now Microsoft and Dell have a bushel of problems—and no obvious solutions since innovative leaps have not been their forte. Apple has stuck to their absurdly high new-product standard for decades, except in Jobs' absence, and, despite barbs and arrows and bad spells, it has paid off. Moreover, if innovation is your forte, when trouble arises your "fallback" is your forte.)

(Is my tribute to Jobs-innovation contrary to my tribute to Coach Schembechler-execution? Sure. So what? Scott Fitzgerald: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." Bob Waterman found that one, and we used it as a chapter epigraph in In Search of Excellence. In Thriving on Chaos, I claimed that the #1 trait of a successful leader is "managing paradox.")