Mhlnews 907 Witts

So, Whats the Answer?

April 1, 2008
An interesting item on the agenda for the Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association (MHEDA) convention next month caught my eye. Its an education

An interesting item on the agenda for the Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association (MHEDA) convention next month caught my eye. It’s an education workshop session entitled “Differentiate or Die,” presented by Sam Geist. He’s not an unaware, business philosopher type. He has realworld experience. Geist took his single sporting goods store in Canada, transformed it into a 15-store, $40 million-dollar-a-year national chain, then sold it to his competitor. Next, he opened a marketing and consulting agency based on full-service customer concepts, wrote a book or four (one with the scary title Execute or Be Executed) and hit the speaking circuit.

What’s interesting to me is his theme—differentiate or die. A few years ago, there was a buzz phrase in the automatic identification space that was similar: collaborate or die. The message seemed to be, in the IT world at least, if you didn’t start working with those around you and those you serve, your job was going to melt like Cleveland’s snow in April (read: slowly). Get out of that air-conditioned room filled with computers and see what your company really did and how you could use data management to forward the company’s mission.

Recently, we’ve added a new word to our lexicon—coopetition: cooperating with your competitors to bring something of value to the customer base. I had it defined for me by an executive at a luncheon: “By making the whole pie bigger, we all get a bigger piece, even if percentage-wise, we all get the same percentage.” Awkward, however, I liked the pie image.

Geist is taking an interesting approach to his presentation at the MHEDA convention. He’s asked MHEDA to post three questions on its Web site, the answers to which will help form his talk. Already, I see how he differentiates himself from the plethora of conference speakers making the rounds these days.

It’s too late for you to participate in the survey; however, even if you are not attending the convention, you can access the findings Geist will present. A PDF will be posted on MHEDA’s Web site at by May 20.

Let’s take a look at the questions:

  • Why should someone do business with you rather than someone else?
  • If there was one thing in your business environment you would like to see changed, what would it be?
  • What makes “getting it done” tough in your organization?

I have a feeling that the responses to these queries are not going to differ much from company to company or industry to industry. I put them to an unscientific test here in the office and was able to boil the answers down to a single word: people.

The changing demographics of the workplace will (maybe I should say “are”) change everyth

Clyde E. Witt Editor-in-Chief [email protected]

ing. Let’s look at just the first item on Geist’s agenda, which I think illustrates my point. A response to that question is to ask another question: Have you ever had a bad customer service experience…scratch that. Have you ever had a good customer service experience and returned to do business with that company? Would you rather do business with a company whose employees quickly respond to your needs or with one that shunts you off to telephone-hell, which, these days, is located seven or eight time zones away?

Does the word “people” answer the other two questions?

As they say in TV Newsland, stay tuned. Film at 11—or on May 20th in this case.

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