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?

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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.