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Simplify, Simplify Again, and Simplify Some More for Your Customers

Feb 5, 2008
Very simple ideas lie within the reach only of complex minds. --Remy de Gourmont

Imagine if you had to assemble your car, truck, or SUV before you could drive it. Even the most talented and experienced mechanic would find that a challenge without a good set of instructions and a well-equipped garage.

As daunting as that task seems to us, Henry Ford realized that if he broke down the assembly process into simple steps and provided the right tools, virtually anyone could learn in a few minutes to be an expert assembler of one or two parts. From that insight, the automobile age was born as the assembly line eliminated many costs and cars were priced within reach of the average working person.

Take something complicated and make it simple, and you will find that it's much easier to attract beneficiaries, customers, and users. Do the same simplification for providing your offering, and costs will evaporate like gasoline on a hot summer day.

Most people would agree that offerings are frequently too hard to understand and use. How many people read all of the instruction manual for their new vehicle and follow the manual's dictates? Not very many.

Most people who work in organizations see lots of unnecessary complexity in what they do. Yet it's comforting to some employees to know that the complexity makes it harder to replace the people and provides more work to do -- a perverse sort of job security. Ironically, that tempting thought encourages stalled thinking that can lead to a lack of competitiveness . . . and a loss of jobs.

The author of the opening quote, Remy de Gourmont, argues that it takes a complex mind to develop very simple ideas, and that's normally the case. But if we follow Henry Ford's insight and break down simplification itself into discrete steps, anyone can simplify well. The first step is to look at your business model.

Simplify Your New Business Model

A good business model emphasizes prompt, effective methods for selling and providing your offerings. Like all business models, your business model is bound to be too complex.

How can you find attractive business model simplifications? I offer a simple concept to guide you: Do the minimum to create a perfect result.

How often do you see "minimum" and "perfect result" in the same sentence? I wager that you may not have ever seen that combination before.

When most of us think about perfection, we immediately think of something exquisitely "maximum" . . . like a 20-tiered wedding cake large enough to feed 600 guests. Just cutting and serving from such a cake is a complex undertaking.

There are a number of problems with such a cake. The cake probably has to be assembled on-site. If the facilities aren't adequate for such construction, the cake will suffer. Cakes like these are also very hard to carry from one room into another. A dropped cake can cause a wedding disaster. In cutting such large and complex cakes, you have to be careful or the cake will tip over. The price per slice of these cakes can be enormous as well.

What does the bridal party really want? Many want a cake that provides a nice decoration for the reception and a memorable backdrop for some of the wedding photographs. In addition, the wedding party wants to feed those 600 guests. Unless the bride and groom want to enter the book of Guinness World Records for their cake, the simpler alternative is to separate the function of "for show" from the function of "for feeding" to create the perfect result.

Wedding cake bakers have long understood those needs. Many such bakers will offer an alternative -- a smaller wedding cake for show and many flat cakes that can be easily cut and served for most of the guests. Some bakers don't even have any cake in the for-show version. Instead, they decorate a cardboard base as the for-show cake and use precut pieces from a flat cake for the obligatory photographs of the bride and groom feeding one another.

Naturally, doing the minimum perfectly is a lot easier for those with simpler needs. If you can find enough of those customers or beneficiaries, you can simply concentrate on providing what they need.

For instance, if you end up doing only wedding parties for 100 guests, your for-show cake can be sculpted from permanent materials rather than from icing and cake. I saw a clever version of that idea at the Four Seasons Hotel in Las Vegas. For a wedding anniversary, cake slices were delivered at lunch in an exquisite container made up to look like an actual anniversary cake. I never tumbled to this being a simulated cake until the server popped open the top and pulled out six precut slices. The rest of the cake we ate was out in the kitchen.

How can you simplify what you offer to make the results better for customers?
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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