Last night, I had the pleasure of enjoying another fantastic and beautiful meal at my most favorite restaurant on the planet earth: Nahm’s Thai Cuisine in Alpharetta, Georgia. In our line of business – delivering award-winning simulation-centric business acumen, business leadership, and strategic business selling learning engagements – we have the opportunity to travel the world and eat some of the most interesting and delicious food in the world.
From the finest dining in Paris to street carts in the heart of Shenzhen, we have tasted it all. But there is something about Nahm that is different than anything else…
Because one of our areas of specialty is business acumen, I am always looking at and trying to understand different business models and approaches to strategy, finance, marketing, supply chain management, and of course leadership. Over the years, I’ve been fascinated by the food at Nahm’s and the business model. In her own way, Nahm has been able to serve great food (innovative product leadership), with great service (it is wonderful customer intimacy when Nahm herself comes out to greet every patron during the evening), and at very reasonable prices.
During our wonderful meal last night, Nahm came to our table to see how dinner was and to great us. I was honored and impressed that she remembered me and asked how my travels were and how our business was doing.
While Nahm was chatting with our party, Jim Fortier, the President and CEO of Great Performance Leadership, and one of the most valued Performance Consultants in our network asked Nahm when she was going to open up a version of her restaurant in Mid-Town Atlanta where he lives. Nahm smiled and thought about the question for a moment…and her reaction was interesting. She told Jim “When God blesses me with another me I can do it.” She of course said it in a funny way and we all laughed with her. But that got us thinking about the corporate world and the issues related to growth, leadership, talent, and scalability.
The problem that Nahm mentioned isn’t just unique to Nahm; it is a challenge faced by every business trying to grow. In thinking about this problem, the question really becomes this: is there a best practice for creating business scalability? In thinking out all of the experiences we have had working with different organizations, I tried to list some of the common best practices of scalability, and I think the dialogue makes for an interesting read.
Best Practices of Business Leadership-Talent Development Driven Business Scalability
Below are six ideas that represent the best practices for creating scale in a business for long-term sustainability.
1. Have a Differentiated Value Proposition People Want
Any conversation about scalability has to start with the product/service you are offering customers: is it something that is differentiated and that many customers would buy? There are dozens of Thai restaurants in the greater Atlanta area, but what makes Nahm’s value proposition better than the competition? In our business acumen training programs, we talk about choosing a value proposition and then delivering that value through a value dashboard. Nahm has established a value dashboard of Variety, Quality, Unique dishes, Service, and then there is the coconut cake for dessert.
There is no better dessert in this world than Nahm’s coconut cake. In business terms, it is the ultimate definition of innovative differentiation.
2. The Skills of Producing the Product / Service Must be Teachable
The next element is also critical: the skills of producing the product/service must be teachable. Like many successful artists, Nahm is one of a kind. Last week I spent some time in Paris and had a wonderful afternoon at the
Musée d'Orsay and spent a lot of time with the Impressionists. One of the things that struck me from a business perspective is that while artists such as Cezanne, Monet, Degas, and Renoir all had their own unique styles, collectively they were able to create some scale with their art by creating and supporting a new genre. But still, there was only one Monet and even though he was the most prolific, he was still one person.
So can pure innovative uniqueness be scaled? This is a very hard question and ultimately it depends on how you define innovative uniqueness. There are organizations that have created beautiful and unique innovations and have scaled. Apple, Tesla, BMW, Omega, and Gucci are just a few examples. Bringing it back to the food industry, there are several examples of “artists” creating scale, such as Jose Garces right here in my hometown of Philadelphia.
In the case of Monet, there was only Monet, and he couldn’t teach other artists to paint like Monet. But food artists like Jose Garces can create a recipe and then teach others how to make the same dish in other restaurants. The learning point is that this is similar to Apple design teams creating the iPhone and that having others manufacture it. Ultimately, if you can teach others to reproduce the genius, then it is scalable.
3. The Product / Service Must be Repeatable
In my earlier discussion of art, one of the most startling recognitions is that there is no repeatability. Monet’s Sunrise is the one and only Monet Sunrise. The uniqueness is not repeatable. On the other hand, the iPhone is repeatable and as a matter of fact, Apple has mastered the ability to repeat it and continue to improve it with each successive version launch.
In the food industry, once the chef has mastered the recipe, the dish is repeatable which is helpful in the quest to create scale.
4. The Business Must be Well Branded
This one is very straightforward as scale can only happen if there is a strong brand. A strong brand enables a business to expand to new customers and new markets based on a reputation of previous success. Over the past ten years, I have noticed that many large companies have not invested enough in supporting their brand. It has been a pattern in tough economic times to cut marketing. When that happens it takes a few years, but the brand is irreparably damaged.
5. The Culture Must Support Scalability
I have always been fascinated by large companies with strong cultures that are the brand.
In today’s global, social media-driven business world, where individuals have more power and freedom than ever to create their own brands and identities, I wonder if a grand global scale through culture will still be possible. Something very interesting to watch over the next few years.. IBM in the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s, McKinsey Consultants, and Home Depot associates all have iconic cultures that go beyond the individual and create a powerful collective. In doing the research on this topic, it became clear to me that one of the most important things needed in the recipe of scalability is having a culture that wants to scale. A culture that wants to scale is a culture that is willing to put the brand first and its identities second in support of the scale.
6. Dispersed Passion is the Secret Sauce
In all of the examples of companies that have created long-term profitable scale, there is passion. Passion is the catalyst to scale because it infuses everyone to make the best products and deliver the right value proposition to the customers who want that value proposition. In thinking about this from the business leadership perspective, it raises another interesting question: how do you lead and create a passion within people who work for you? Or is passion something you hire for and therefore is part of the competency model and the talent acquisition strategy?
In the companies that I have observed that have great and dispersed passion, I think they have found a way to develop it through inspired leadership. By creating positive work environments where employees are aligned with the strategy and the value proposition offered to customers, leaders transform their teams into passionate ambassadors of the product and brand and are able to create scale.
Creating scale is one of the most daunting challenges every business faces. In this blog, we discussed six different elements of a process for developing scale:
- Having a Differentiated Value Proposition
- The Skills to Produce the Product / Service Must be Teachable
- The Product / Service Must be Repeatable
- The Business Must be Well Branded
- Culture Must Support Scalability
- Dispersed Passion is the Secret Sauce
As always, comments and thoughts are welcome publically or privately.