Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Where's the Bar?

No, not that bar. I'm talking about the proverbial bar, that lofty goal we strive to attain. When someone says "BigToe has really raised the bar for the rest of the industry," we understand that statement means that the rest of us now have a new benchmark against which we measure ourselves.

So, who sets the bar for your company? Is it the customers? If you are simply meeting the needs of your customers, then you are letting them set your service goals. Your company is doomed to never exceed your customers expectations, because your measuring stick is only as high as the customer can imagine. If you are to really dazzle them, you have to demonstrate that you hold your company to higher standards than even they do. You set the bar.

For many of you, I suspect the bar is set by what is in your network contract. Standards for boat appearance, response times, hours of availability. Just play by the rules and try to make a buck. But those rules are like the minumum Coast Guard Standards for PFDs - the levels we don't dare go below. Would you trust your life to those $4 "lifejackets" at Wal-Mart that are "USCG Approved"? The same is true for ACAPT standards. Those standards are not some lofty goal one struggles to achieve, they are the starting point on which to build.

Or, do you measure your success by comparing yourself to your local competition? Do you breathe a sigh of relief when he slacks off, because now you can relax? Do you feel that as long as your service is just as good as his, you are competing? Like the kids say nowadays: NOT! If all you can do is imitate the competition, then you might as well sell your boats and go work for that guy. If you are going define your standards in comparison to his, then your service will never truly exceed his. The point of a competition is to win, not merely keep up.

In a competitive service business like marine assistance, company owners have to keep raising their own bar, relentlessly striving to improve their services as measured against their last job, not as measured against their competitor's last failure.