Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher
 

Too Much Stuff Interferes with Success

Many businesses think their value proposition is to offer more stuff than the other guys. Often, this confuses customers, overwhelms employees and distracts salespeople. Does more stuff interfere with success?

Is your value proposition “more stuff”? Is that why people work at your company or customers choose you? If so, you are setting yourself up for big problems. Because someone else will always have more stuff.

More stuff is a weak value proposition. Only a few companies have ever pulled it off.

More stuff usually doesn’t mean more competition, or better results. It doesn’t automatically create more customers or market share or profits. A few exceptions – mega-retail like Wal-Mart, for example – can work. But that leaves you selling volume on tiny margins. Is that your plan?

More stuff might even attract employees or salespeople, for a while. But it won’t necessarily keep them, in the long term.

Especially in complex service industries and luxury segments, more isn’t always better. Do you hire a doctor because he has more nurses, scalpels or gauze pads? A lawyer because he has more law books? A mechanic who has more wrenches? No, you hire people who can consistently create a valuable outcome you desire. It’s also who you decide to go work for.

Yet there remain companies who equate their value proposition with their basket of stuff. Certainly, some stuff is necessary – marketing, sales, customer service and organizational tools are necessary. But can you have too much stuff?

Absolutely. In fact, it happens all the time. Then, excessive features, too many options, multiple websites, etc., start confusing customers (my Acura TL dashboard is a perfect example). Employees become overwhelmed when there are too many systems or steps to complete their work (go to any Starbucks to see this principle create long lines). And salespeople often end up spinning in circles, caught in a vortex of stuff that impedes success rather than empowers it.

Look at the relationship of stuff to success. Years ago, Sony sold more stereo systems because they had more buttons than the competition. But those days are gone. Learning from an era where few people could even set the time on their VCRs, today’s winning technologies feature fewer buttons. Apple’s iPad is the gold standard. It’s nearly buttonless interface enables it to ship without a manual. Yet even novices can quickly get it to create their desired outcomes. 

Thus Apple soars while Sony fights to survive.

Too much stuff impedes success. That’s how you end up with real estate agents whose listing presentations span 50+ Powerpoint slides covered in tiny text. When in doubt, overwhelm the customer with so much stuff, they will list with you just to get you to leave their house….

Brokers repeat the mistake. They equate retention with the quantity of bric-a-brac they shower upon their agents. Their value proposition has become we have the same or more stuff than the other brokers. Rather than, we create better outcomes for the agents who work here. In fact, the constant production of stuff eventually interferes with the production of sales, as agents become overwhelmed by, rather than focused on using key tools repeatedly well.

Marketing departments make new stuff weekly. Technology people churn stuff faster than a trending hashtag. Trainers then cry for stuff to teach the stuff. As for customers, they eventually don’t know which stuff is important and which is just fluff stuff, so they can’t choose the right-stuff-ed agent to represent them.

Oh, the stuff: Nightmares are made of.

Ironically, the most successful people often use the least amount of stuff. Certainly, they use technology, systems, tools and training. But they don’t use all of it, all the time. Their success comes from knowing when to adopt and when to implement. They understand – intuitively, but often explicitly – that constantly adding new things doesn’t add-up to more results. It’s not resistance; it’s actually success clarity. They don’t want more stuff; just the right stuff.

High performing people rarely are retained by stuff, either. Some aren’t even impressed by it, because they know that the quest for new and more often distracts valuable management, technical and marketing resources from implementing existing things that were released last month, or the month before.

The stuff of success isn’t stuff. It’s implementation. Doing a few things well, every day. Yes, we have to adopt and adapt: Some new stuff must be incorporated over time. But it should be selective, a few things annually, maybe even just one. And it should be something, above all, that is fully supported to maximum implementation.

Not just another hold-over until next quarter’s new stuff.

Possibly the greatest irony occurs when a customer or  salesperson leaves one company for another who offers more stuff, only to find their production fall because more stuff doesn’t necessarily mean more success. In our experience it happens all the time.

Almost as frequently, in fact, as new stuff is released.

Try this test: Go back to your customers, your employees, your salespeople and ask: How would you feel if we didn’t introduce more stuff this year, but instead focused on applying what we already have, until we can implement it 100% of the time with 100% excellence?

When you hear them all give a sigh of relief, you’ll understand.

Now isn’t that some stuff to think about….

 

  • Jim Meader

    Master the basics, phone, printing,copiers, forms, internet speed/capacity comes first.

    Inovation comes second. 

    The problem with “new” technology is that most decision makers do not understand the very technology they are buying, they just believe the hype of new technology.

    Any company must continue to innovate tools or fall behind, but there is a difference between inovation and new technology and “Shinny New Objects”

  • Jim:

    Thanks for your comments. I agree you need to keep up, and I think it’s possible to innovate and keep up, without overwhelming. That’s the danger. I work with many companies who are always asking: What should we do next? That’s when I tell them: Until you get 80, 90, 100% usage of your existing investments and innovations, you don’t have to worry about “next” but “now”. If the idea/innovation was correct in the first place, then the efforts needs to be on implementation to maximum potential.
    In my opinion, companies don’t need to introduce more than two innovations a year, unless a massive disruption occurs in the marketplace. Every new thing they throw at customers, salespeople and staff will immediately cause productivity to fall for some amount of time. If you’re doing that every quarter (or month) then you’re often the cause of your own problems….
    — Matthew