There have been times in my past where I’ve seen business grow exponentially over previous years. These kind of astounding results are attributed to key factors that were both inside and outside our realm of control. All companies need to have a single overriding directive that is within their realm of control:
They exist to serve their customers.
Consider this: For a company to grow 50% year over year in an industry that grew only 10% means that the additional 40% would need to come from competitors via the acquisition of market share. As such, someone else has to lose business in order for them to gain it.
In order for a company to steal market share, they need to show customers that they want their business more than their competition. Customer service needs to become the reason they come in to work every day. These kinds of companies strive to make customer experience the best it can be—at any cost. In doing this, they attract customers away from their competition which in turn weakens them. As companies suffer from the lack of business, the first thing they typically do is cut costly services which actually broadens the gap and even more forcing customers to leave in droves.
A while back, I stepped on a sharp metal object and got a bad gash on my foot. Realizing that I needed stitches, I immediately went the ER at the biggest private hospital in the city. I walked in to meet Ellen, a rather rude and hurried receptionist who instructed me to sit and wait. I calmly accepted and inquired how long it might take to get a doctor to look at my injury. She then snapped back stating “I don’t know, I’m trying to do something else right now”. To which I evenly responded “Thanks. I’m not trying to be pushy, but your competition at South Miami Hospital has a ‘Fast Track’ service, so I was wondering how long it might take here”. She mentioned that I would be going to the “Urgent Care” department across the hall and the timing would be dependent on patient load.
I subsequently limped over to the Urgent Care department and on the way, I asked a nurse for directions. The nurse ordered me to “go back and wait”. Ignoring her, I continued on and eventually found the “Urgent Care” center and met with another receptionist who stated “I don’t know how long it might take. Go back and wait”. The ER waiting room was dirty, filled with people and there was literally no space to sit.
It became obvious that the hospital I was at didn’t want my business more than their competitors. Considering this, my wife Alina and I left and drove to South Miami Hospital. When we walked into the Hospital we immediately noticed the difference! The receptionist was nice, walked me right in and treated me as a person. Another nurse promptly took my pulse and then walked me over to the ‘Fast Track’, where, after a brief wait, I was taken in, registered and treated. South Miami’s Emergency room was just as busy as the original hospital, but they were organized and well-staffed. Every employee, including the triage and ER nurses and even the doctor that treated me were pleasant, well-mannered and professional. They respected my time and they showed me first hand that they wanted my business more than their competition.
After my experience, I have shared this story with over a thousand people and based on how word of mouth works, I’m certain that I have made a positive impact to South Miami Hospital’s business. Maybe not so good for the other guy…
Even a gargantuan hospitals can and will learn that customers today demand more.
In the days of old, companies could get away with paying little heed to customer feedback. However, today, things are different. It is almost inconceivable to think that behemoth companies like Kodak, Blockbuster, Sony, GM and RIM could be staring into the abyss. Studying these companies shows a point in time where they willingly ignored their customer base. Ever since, they have had other companies steal away their market share. The moral of the story is that companies need to realize they exist solely for their customers, employees, community, and, finally, shareholders—in that order.
The New-Age Mantra:
- Treat your employees in an exemplary manner. Expect them to treat your customers in the same manner.
- Employees need to show every customer that they want their business more than any competitor.
- Find new ways to allocate profits in order to better service customers and better pay employees.
- Create a business that is a responsible member of the community.
- Establish a long-term business that will have plenty left over for shareholders.
Gilbert Fiorentino is a serial entrepreneur, turnaround and acquisition artist with more than 23 years’ experience as a high-performing top executive in a variety of markets. He specializes in using the transforming power of technology to convert faltering companies into sustainably profitable enterprises.
A Partner with SOLIDexecutive, Inc., Fiorentino is an e-commerce pioneer who was an early adopter of Internet sales. He previously headed a global, multi-channel marketing corporation that had acquired the catalog company he had started years earlier. Beyond merely cutting costs to improve the bottom line, Fiorentino finds creative ways to solve business problems and grow the top line as well.
Fiorentino excels at reinventing companies across multiple marketing approaches including online sales, bricks-and-mortar retail, B2B and TV shopping networks. He developed an innovative retailing approach that integrates online browsing with in-store shopping. Fiorentino also has streamlined nationwide manufacturing, shipping and distribution operations.
During a market downturn, Fiorentino led the acquisition of several major electronics brands, leveraging existing brand loyalty for continued sales growth. The combined website traffic of the primary U.S. brands has been ranked #2 among computer and electronics retailers, similar to that of big-box chains.
Until May 2011, Fiorentino was CEO of the Technology Products Group of Systemax, a $3.2 billion multinational, multi-channel reseller of computers and electronics. Prior to assuming that post, he served as director of the company and was largely responsible for the group on a worldwide basis.
Fiorentino first joined Systemax – then known as Global Directmail – in 1995 when it acquired TigerDirect, a computer and electronics marketer he had founded and later transformed into an e- commerce industry leader. TigerDirect was a direct mail catalog sales company that Fiorentino reinvented during the Internet boom. In 1999, it was doing $200 million a year in annual sales; in 2000 it doubled in size (with one less employee) by virtue of online growth. He simultaneously built a B2B sales group with up to 600 reps and opened his first retail outlet.
Fiorentino “re-reinvented” the company in 2008 by moving aggressively into storefront retailing, expanding from 11 to 42 stores by 2011. He acquired and revitalized CompUSA, inventing a concept dubbed Retail 2.0 (patent pending). This innovative customer experience brought the Internet into retail stores in a seamless, revolutionary way by linking more than 250 products in each location to the Web. Shoppers can interact with any “connected device” or get product information while walking the aisles.
In 2005, Fiorentino took over management of MISCO Europe, showing significant growth for the 11- country operation in ensuing years.
With two partners and $500 initial capital, Fiorentino began his career in South Florida in 1985 when he opened an advertising and marketing firm in Miami, which morphed into TigerDirect in 1989.
Fiorentino holds two degrees from the University of Miami: a J.D. from the School of Law and a B.S. in Economics. He is an adjunct professor of business law in the School of Business and a member of the Florida State Bar.
Active in the Consumer Electronics Association, Fiorentino was a keynote speaker at the 2010 International CES. He has attended Bill Gates’ exclusive annual CEO Summit as well as other thought- leader events around the country.
In 2010, Business Leader magazine named Fiorentino “South Florida Business Leader of the Year” (retail category), one of 20 recipients chosen from more than 1,800 nominees overall. The South Florida Business Journal named him CEO of the Year in 2007 and TigerDirect Employer of the Year in 2005.