"The 12 natural laws of business"


1. You’re more likely to get to greatness if you have an inspiring and strategically sound vision.
Ari believes strongly in teaching everybody how to run a business, “even those employees who just want a job.” Part of this is having everybody understand the vision (it’s more than a short “mission statement,” he writes in his book). This isn’t just a 2-line throwaway statement, it’s a multi-page document with “emotional richness” about what success looks like. “What cathedral are you constructing?,” using the parable of the rock breaker and the cathedral builder. I agree with Ari that “everybody wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves” and that vision comes from the “inside out” – and he added, “there’s no right or wrong vision, just yours.”
A strategic plan (think about this in terms of Lean’s strategy deployment approach) is the map that gets you to the destination. Without a vision, “it’s like asking Mapquest to provide a map without punching in an address.”
 2. If you don’t give customers compelling reasons to buy from you, they won’t.
Ari is a big fan of the Net Promoter Score approach and he emphasizes having “loyal” customers over just merely “satisfied.” This reminds me of hearing Bob Lutz talk in the late 90s about it being better to have a car that some people loved and some people hated, as opposed to a car that everybody thought was OK.
Ari emphasized that quality “for us is not just about meeting specifications.”
3. If you don’t create a great, rewarding place for people to work, they won’t do great work.
This is my example, but I watched an episode of the TV show “Bar Rescue” the other day. The chef at this California sports bar was a classically trained chef, working under some big-name people. But, he had basically given up and stopped caring about his work or the food at the bar. He wanted to give a damn, but the owner had given up and didn’t care about the place anymore. The bar consultant recognized the talent in the chef that was just waiting to be unleashed… but he needed the owner to want to make the bar a great place… Quality starts at the top, as Dr. Deming used to say.
4. If you want the staff to give great service to customers, you have to give great service to the staff.
This all about servant leadership, with Ari saying “the staff are our customers.” This seems to be really true in service industries – that if you take care of the employees, they will take care of the customers. The way you are treating the employees flows through to the customers. In a business where employees treat  the customers badly (looking at you American Airlines), it’s not because the flight attendants and gate agents are bad people – they’ve been mistreated by management over the years. In healthcare, there are strong correlations between staff satisfaction/engagement and patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes. We have to give great service to the surgeons and the nurses, for example, making sure they have the supplies, equipment, and time required to do the job right.
5. If you want staff to give great performance, you have to give clear expectations and training tools.
Ari said “I’m preaching to the converted here” (at ASQ), but “it’s not like this elsewhere.” At Zingerman’s, “everyone’s involved in re-designing work,” which sounds just like Lean.
6. Successful businesses do the things that others know they should do but generally don’t.
Pretty straight forward — what is your organization NOT doing?
7. If you aren’t consistently getting better, you’re not going to get long-term greatness.
Just like Lean, there’s a theme of continuous improvement at Zingerman’s. They opened their own bakery to provide bread for the deli not to make more profit, but to ensure the proper quality for their sandwiches, etc. Ari told a story about how great it is when a dishwasher says to the CEO, “Why are you doing it that way? That doesn’t make any sense!!”
8. Success means you get better problems—but there will always be problems.
This really reminds me of the Toyota/Lean mindset that we always have problems and “no problems is a problem.”
9. Whatever you’re good at is likely to also lead into areas of weakness.
Ari said “the things you’re good at are the things you’re not good at.” For example, Zingerman’s is participative, but that means they can be slow. When is your greatest strength your greatest fault?
10. It takes a lot longer to make something great happen than people think.
Well this sounds like a description of a Lean transformation, doesn’t it?
11. Profit is good (he stated as “Without good finance, you fail,” I think)
Ari wants a sustainable business, not one that’s based on win/lose approaches (this reminds me of Covey and win/win). Toyota, for one, has strong long-term finances by partnering with suppliers, not by screwing them over price in the short term. The need for profit reminds me of the common healthcare saying, “no margin, no mission.”
12. Great organizations are appreciative and the people in them have more fun.
Fun leads to success and success leads to fun. Ari said, “Everything we do is about believing in people and helping them to greatness.” What a great sentiment.
The YouTube video of an Ari talk, below, is probably pretty similar to what I saw, and you can read a Zingerman’s site about the 12 laws.

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A tiny dust in the universe.