“You don’t have to be a Lance Armstrong to get on a bike. You don’t have to be a Michael Phelps to jump in the pool.” I said to Ed earlier today. Ed is 72 years old. He came into the swimming pool as I was finishing my 40 laps. “I have not seen anyone swim like that since the summer tournament…” he said, to which I replied laughing “That’s a huge exaggeration, I would not make any beginners swim team.” Having shared my guiding philosophy above I added, “You don’t have to be a Mozart to compose music.”And so we started talking.
Ed has a nursery business up in New Jersey. It’s a family farm and they have been in business since 1920. His grandfather started the business, then his father ran the business and then Ed took it over. Now Ed’s son and son in law run the business. At this point I am all ears because I am interested in what makes things work. How does a nursery family farm survive and thrive 80 years through four generation. “What’s the secret?” I ask, “It sounds like a true American tale; there must be Hollywood material here, anyone own the rights for your story yet?” Ed laughs and says, “Not yet…”
“In the mid 80’s we started seeing Home Depots popping up all around us. We gathered around the table and looked at the facts. Every Home Depot has a plant nursery. If we didn’t differentiate, we would be out of business in no time. We had to offer our customers something they could not get at Home Depot. We wrote a big TLC on the wall – THINK LIKE CUSTOMERS and decided that would guide us. Our customers continue to come through the door for much more than just plants. Visits to our nursery have become an experience. Customers love coming to us because of the guidance they get and the experience they have when they visit. We designed special rides for the kids around Halloween and made our business a family adventure destination.”
What Ed and his son realized was that they had to change the value proposition. They were no longer in the business of selling plants as a commodity. They provide an outdoor farm experience for city dwellers where the plants are the props and the icing on the cake. The Home Depot chains can’t provide that and Ed’s family business is thriving.
How about what you do? Here is an exercise you can explore. List your key stakeholders, the people you bring value to.
1. What is the value you provide right now?
2. What other unmet needs can you identify?
3. Where can you add more or new value to your offerings?
4. What opportunities are available for you to reframe your engagement with stakeholders to provide new, differentiated value?
© Aviv Shahar