Coffee or Tea – A Lesson in Strategy

Candyce, a dynamic, exciting new client and owner of Shear Escape Salon Spa, came to my office yesterday to start working on her project.

I offered and Candyce enthusiastically requested a cup of Hazelnut coffee, which she had been looking forward to all week as a reward for her nutritional discipline. I have this brand new, never-been-used, fancy Keurig machine in my office, loaded it up, turned it on, pushed start, pushed start again (it’s a male thing) and nothing happened. Wanting to impress my new client, I continued pushing buttons as if I was entering the launch code for the caffeine rocket. Still, nothing.

Smiling, I told her I was having technical problems, and went down the hall to have an expert, Tara, bring me a cup of coffee. Tara brought the coffee with a smile. Candyce asked for milk – I can handle that! I conveniently have milk in my office fridge and away we went. She poured, then got a funny look on her face: The milk molecules were alive and trying to swim out of her cup of coffee in globs.

Finally, I offered an awesome cup of tea, and she accepted, because there was nothing left. At this point, I had to admit my strategic error: I lost the coffee battle. You see, I drink tea, and I make a great cup of tea.

The Tea Collection
The Tea Collection

Strategy is based on core competence and I don’t have any core competence in making coffee in a new machine that has never worked from day one. (side note: for sale, like new coffee machine)

How often in our businesses do we do something for our customers, because they asked, when we don’t have the core competence to do it at a professional level. We risk harming our relationship, hurting our reputation, and diluting our brand.

The message: don’t pour stale milk onto your brand. Always go with your strengths and core competence.

From now on, I only serve tea in my office. I have 20 kinds of tea: What would you like?

Copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved. Phil Symchych

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