The Nirvana of Netflix

Thoughts

The new policy of Netflix to automatically cancel accounts that have been inactive for a long period of time is worth applauding.

Everybody in the subscriptions business knows that what you really want is for customers to get into a subscription and then – hopefully – forget about the ongoing billing relationship, until the credit card expires.

But that’s the wrong way to think about it.

The right way to think about it is to put customers first in everything that you do, deliver a stellar experience that really goes above and beyond what customers are expecting leading to more and more usage.

When you do that you will know that you have done whatever it takes to deliver value to your customers and keep them happy. You can do nothing more.

When some customers are then still not using your service, you will know that it’s not because of you but because of something in their lives.

If you get to that moment the last great thing you can do for them is to send them out with a big hug and a kiss and just offer to cancel their account. No questions asked.

It is the last step to customer loyalty heaven. But – and this is important – it takes a killer product with superior service to get to that position.

Netflix has that.

What an example!

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

WFH? Not so fast

Process, Work

A movement is forming around the future of work; saying goodbye to the office in return for unrestricted flexibility to work from wherever whenever and however you might choose. It’s the future, damn it!

First of all, I will always be very reluctant to base any long term strategy on a short term experience of what happens, when you make the switch. Add to that that the switch was forced due to Covid-19 and add all the stress elements of anxiety, having to keep kids at home while trying to work etc, and to me it is just a big NO GO!

It’s just a poor way of using data. Almost fraudulent. Especially if you have the well-being of the people, you’re trying to determine the future of work for at heart.

Second, I strongly believe in working together – also in a physical sense. A lot of the work I do and do with others is centered around creativity, open discussions, listening to arguments and finding the best course of action going forward. I find it super hard to replicate sitting at my kitchen table versus being present in the office with the others on our team. But that’s just me.

What is not just me is the thing about workplace culture.

Let’s for a second forget that going completely WFH effectively eliminate all discussion about work-life-balance, because we take away the one thing that keeps things kind of separate for us – the commute. That’s a problem in itself.

No, the real problem is how we create a great company culture, if we’re never together? Culture is not something that happens at bi-weekly all hands meetings or the annual company picnic. It happens every day in your interactions – little and big – with your colleagues around why it is you come to work every day:

You need to see your great colleagues, your need to figure out great solutions together, your need to know and really FEEL that you’re together in creating whatever it is that your company is working to create – the big “why?”

Even though a lot of leaders talk about the importance of having a great company culture, a lot of companies still ultimately rely on people figuring the culture part out themselves and keeping it alive at the water cooler, the small chit chats and whatever else you have, where you can meet informally and bond.

That is super, super hard to do remote. It least if you care about having a team where the “why?” matters.

And that brings me to the final point:

There are lots of roles, where it makes sense to go predominantly WFH; some very well-defined roles, where you essentially have a tasklist, you can work yourself through on a daily basis, be done and call it a day knowing that somehow your contribution fits into the corporate hamsterwheel of things.

But by and large – for ordinary jobs in ordinary companies (and be honest, those are the 99,9 % of all companies) – the “why?” goes out the window during this process.

You can give people all the flexibility in the world that you want. But once everybody starts doing that, it seizes to be an advantage.

And you will be stuck with the downsides;

It will be as easy for your employees to leave as it was to onboard them. Because nothing is going to be holding them back:

They don’t have a real relationship with your company. They don’t really know the people they work with. They (probably) have an even more crap manager than in the office, because managing remote is even harder than in the physical space). And they are distanced from the mission, the “why?”

What’s not to leave behind for greener pastures?

A WFH defacto for work going forward will do nothing else than (1) make it harder for the vast majority of mediocre companies to make great things happen and (2) make it near impossible to keep the people that go the extra mile to see the vision come true as a true team effort while (3) all along giving the false sense of relief that everything is flexible, fine and dandy.

Choose WFH at your own peril.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Don’t shoot the Excel-guy

Modelling

Everybody loves to hate the Excel-sheet. The model that shows the necessary cuts to costs. The model that shows the hockeystick blowing into the sky. Any model, really.

But don’t blame Excel. Blame the complexity of the world instead.

Why?

Because – newsflash – the world is a super complicated space, where nothing can be reduced to black & white, 0’s and 1’s and binary choices. It’s full color, total chaos.

All. The. Time.

For the very same reason you should never look down on the guy or girl whose job it is to use Excel to give a representation of the world. Because it is not only a super hard job. It is an impossible job. Because the world is complex.

Yet, it is great that someone is doing it. Cherish the Excel wizard.

Love the fact that someone is putting the chin out for you and others to hit – first on one side, and then on the other. Because at the end of the day we, as humans, need some kind of structure in chaos. Something from which we can navigate, have (informed) discussions and make (hopefully) slightly less bad decisions.

Because the best decisions aren’t made in a void with no overview. They are made where there is a sense of structure, overview and idea of what the heck is really going on in this world of constantly moving parts.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Cakes, taxes and value

Thoughts

I come from a small town in the Western part of Jutland and aside from red sausages (don’t ask) I was brought up on really good, traditional bakers bread (and it showed).

For the same reason, I have always found Lagkagehuset to be almost a profanity.

I mean: How can someone set up a chain of bakeries in the greater Copenhagen area (and later beyond) offering pretty poor bread at absolut premium prices – and be successful at it?

Lagkagehuset have since been sold to VC funds, moved to a tax haven and are now in the papers for reaching out to get financial aid from the Covid-19 help packages, even though they make their best efforts to not pay tax in Denmark.

As a result people are starting to revolt; not wanting to keep supporting a company who privatizes profit but socializes loses.

Ok.

But shouldn’t you have revolted in the first place due to substandard experiences from over priced products?

I mean: Evading taxes should not have been the real killer in the first place (and quite honestly, I don’t think it will be once the current controversy has died).

Lack of connection between value proposition, quality and price however should.

Lagkagehuset offers a opportunity to study what it really means to have a value proposition and fulfilling a job for the customer. What may be on the face value is not necessarily the real driver.

Obviously, the bread and the prices didn’t matter to customers. If they did, Lagkagehuset would never have become such a success. Maybe behaving responsible does matter? It makes for a funny business and Business Model Canvas, I’ll grant you that.

But maybe it will give some added perspective and perhaps even some pause to how we think about what really drives behaviour and what a great value proposition actually is. It’s clearly not what’s stated in the public Powerpoint deck or on that fancy poster in the shop.

It is both harder, more complex and more irrational than that. Understanding them takes real work.

NB: The cakes on the picture bears no resemblance to those served by Lagkagehuset.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

B&O neutered

Case

The Danish design icon, B&O, is in deep, deep trouble. The company was bleeding heavily before the crisis, and now they are looking to raise 400M DKK in new capital in order to weather the Covid-19 storm (or at least that’s the convenient excuse).

The problems at B&O run deep. Back in the day it was a luxury icon. You spent money on their nicely Jacob Jensen designed stereos, TVs and speakers just to show off to other people and send a message that you could afford it, and they – most likely – couldn’t.

Today Samsung, LG, Sonos and what have you is not only considered just as good but better. Because function and affordable cost has taken over from form and high cost (except pretty much for Apple, which I consider somewhat of an outlier that just proves the point).

After having taken professor Scott Galloways Strategy Sprint course on what characterizes companies that grows to be trillion dollar companies, I decided to do the reverse exercise:

Can the T-Algorithm help explain why some companies – in this case B&O – go in the opposite direction and is moving closer to bankruptcy than world domination?

Maybe. It is worth a try. So here goes:

Appeals to Human Instinct? Does B&O’s products appeal to the Brain, the Heart, the Gut and/or the Genitals?

You could argue that when it was a real ‘thing’, it appealed to the Genitals, ie “I’m a better off and more attractive and thus a better mate for you because I can afford spending an obscene amount of money on a stereo?”

But now? Not more. It has zero sex appeal left. Zero. It no longer sends a message of testosterone to own and display B&O. The brand has – so to say – been neutered. Ouch.

Mark? Failed.

Career Accelerant: Is B&O a place young talent goes to work to further their career?

Can they attract the best and brightest? B&O had a kind of a second coming with their Play spin-out brand for headphones on-the-go a couple of yours ago. The team behind was younger, bright, skilled and ambitious.

Success followed in a tough Red Ocean-market. And then for some inexplicable reason, B&O decided to ditch the Play brand and move it into the old brand fold to try to breathe new life into their comatose brand patient.

Guess what happened? Great people started to get new great opportunities. Elsewhere.

Mark? Narrow pass but trending towards Failed.

Growth & Margins: Has B&O been able to maintain a business with high growth and high margins?

On the face value of their last several earnings calls…eehhm…not so much. In fact quite the opposite. And that’s me being super generous.

Back in the day when their design appealed to mating (see Genitals above), they had a fighting chance. When customers figured out that the hardware was essentially the same as in much cheaper competitive products, and they didn’t want to overpay for a fancy wrapping, they kind of lost their mojo.

Mark? Failed, but more due to market circumstance than their own doing. Except for not really being able to keep up with the times in terms of great, valuable design.

Rundle: Does B&O have the opportunity to create an attractive bundle that can form the basis of a business relying on recurring revenues?

Absolutely. Not. In. A. Million. Years. Next question.

Mark? Failed due to No Show.

Vertical integration: Does B&O already have or are they able to create vertical integration through their supply chain?

Well, they have been sort of trying through their franchised brand stores. However, they have turned out to be more of an offloading dock for stock products sitting idle in warehouses, because no-one seemed really willing to buy them.

They were instead stashed away in stores and as a result the franchise owners ceremonially cried quarter after quarter about too much inventory in their stores leading to even more ceremonially write-downs by B&O.

Not exactly efficient, let alone profitable.

As for the supply chain backwards there is no room for vertical integration. Apart from a few inhouse components and technologies, the vast majority of components in B&O products are commodities you can source all over, and B&O has for a long time been way too little a player to really be able to exercise pressure on the supply chain.

Mark? Failed.

Benjamin Button Product: Does B&Os products become better with age and/or use?

Not really. It’s home electronics essentially, and they don’t age very well. Of course there is a secondary market for some of their design classics, but it would be a far, FAR cry to call that a Benjamin Button effect.

Mark? Failed.

Visionary Storytelling: Does B&O have a compelling story to tell?

Well, yes they actually do. They have a great story steeped in tradition, excellence in design and sound (primarily), and they are still pushing the exclusivity of the experience super hard.

The problem is that the size of the audience who is listening – and who even find the story interesting at all – is diminishing.

Every time a senior citizen dies, one more of those who remembered what B&O once was and think they still are goes away. Brutal but true.

It doesn’t help B&O that a lot of the narrative the past 10-20 years has been about the constant crisis of the company, the eternal struggle to survive and stay relevant, which brings me to the last point…

(Mark? Passed but with a mediocre grade).

Likeability: Does B&O have a management team that customers, partners and employees have confidence in?

In short: No! Why? Because it is super, f****** hard to be likeable, when you change your CEO once every year (OK, maybe not exactly that often but very often).

B&O have burned through several CEOs over the last 20 years, and the story has been anything but consistent; one minut it is a branding guy with no real message in charge, the next minute it is an engineer, who then gets replaced by someone who nobody knows who is, because – yes – he is THAT anonymous.

I mean, really?

B&O has essentially been left rudderless. There has been nobody to truly rally around, who could articulate that the company may be akin to a plane in flames flying on the last fumes, but we will all eventually get down safely and live to take another flight – with no flames.

The man at the helm has essentially been AVOL for years.

Mark? Utterly Failed. In an abysmal way.

Which ultimately reflects back on the parents of this particular student; the board.

Having said all that and the above using the T-Algorithm, it should thus come as no surprise, why it is that B&O is closer to being a Zero Dollar Company soon than ever a Trillion Dollar Company in the future.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

I am looking for YOU!

News, Work

Do you have experience in Product Management and – preferably – in MedTech? Then maybe you’re the one I am looking for to join our new MedTech X-startup at inQvation Studio?

I am extremely passionate and excited about this project. I have been working on it from different angles for months, and it is a super interesting case:

We have a big interesting problem, we’re addressing, in a space where there are no good solutions today. We are working with a team of experienced scientists on some potentially breakthrough-technology. And we are putting a killer advisory board in process.

I have worked on a lot of different things over the years, and I can safely say that this is by far the most interesting, worthwhile and challenging thing, I have ever done – in every good way.

It makes a ton of sense and feels 100% right no matter how I look at it. And we have a unique opportunity to make a real difference in peoples lives. No kidding around.

Sounds interesting or even exciting?

Take a look at the job post here: http://inqvation.dk/headofproduct

Or better yet:

Book me for a chat right here.

I look so much forward to hearing from you.

(Graphics: inQvation)

Turn on the jets

Thoughts

When the shit hits the fan, you have got a choice:

You can either panic and retreat. Hastily. Or you can grab the sword and fight your way out of it and count on that the other guys will choose option one and just head for the hills.

On that note now is the time to grab your sword and go out full swinging. Seize the opportunity of the moment and “turn on the jets” as professor Scott Galloway calls it.

Why?

Because the learnings and skills you get in a time of crisis will serve you super well, when things start getting back to normal. Because you will be used to fighting and (hopefully) winning everything else that follows will seem more like a breeze.

You will simply enter the next new normal at a higher level than those around you, who chose to bail or just do nothing. And that will be able to set you apart.

Furthermore, when you stand up and fight now, you will realize just how hard things are. You will be forced to look super hard at things, make tough decisions, go into full frontal mode and just face the challenges head on.

You will NOT cut any corners, not get lazy, not get into excess habits of spending both money and time on things that don’t really get you forward.

You will be able to stay laser focused while your experience grows – and you will come out of this…

Alive and kicking. With all jets at full throttle.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Fan of fans

Work

Back in 2008 me and my present boss had a great dialogue back and forth about a concept, we called “Fan of Fans”; the idea built in Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans post that if you could muster enough dedicated fans, you would have the foundation for a solid business.

We bought the domain and discussed it at length, but we never followed through on it. I am not the one to say what could or could not have been, had we put in the extra mileage. But what I can say is this:

(1) The whole idea is coming back with a vengeance post Covid-19; we’re done with mindless, senseless, cheap junk. I admit, it is a prediction, but I really believe in it coming true.

(2) The idea is going to be core to a new project, I am working on, and which I very much hope, I will be able to announce very soon (aka within weeks rather than months).

Why? Because fans are important. They matter. More than anything, really.

When you have fans, you have desire, you have something other people want. Otherwise; why would they be fans, exactly? Why do huge arena concerts with big names sell out (in normal times) in minutes after tickets are being put on sale?

With fans you have a source of revenue as those desires have a tendency to be transferable into good ol’ cash. I am a big fan of LEGO. Ask my girlfriend how much LEGO I have and still buy, and how much LEGO Friends my two girls are swimming in?

With fans you have your “Why?”, your purpose. With fans you’re never in doubt as to why you are there – and what is expected of you in terms of performance and behaviour. They’re extremely vocal.

And with fans you have stamina for the long haul. I have been a fan of Blackburn Rovers Football Club for almost 30 years now, and even though we fans have been dragged through the mud, to hell and back again, we’re still there. Because that is what it means being a real fan.

Working with fans can be daunting. But it can also be easy. If you treat them as fans and realize that just as it is in business in general, the fan is always right.

Always.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Don’t fall out of windows

Process

When somebody “accidentally” falls out of a window at a hospital or any ofter building after criticizing the government and their policy, actions – or lack thereof – you could argue that it could be seen as a ‘clever’ way of removing an opposing voice for good.

It is a tactic. A morbid but…eehhm…efficient one.

When suddenly people – in plural – start falling out of windows, and there is a common denominator in their background stories it starts to look more like a strategy than a tactic.

A poor strategy that is. Because it becomes totally evident to even the blind what is really going on. And then you have put yourself in a worse position.

The point?

That even if you’re efficient at the tactical level in your daily job, you are not necessarily by any means a good strategist. Rather the opposite.

Why?

Because you’re so caught up in what’s efficient in the moment, short term, that you completely miss out on the bigger, longer term picture.

And here is a news flash:

It is always the bigger, long term picture that decides how others look at and interact with you and your company.

So if you want to be good at tactics and strategy, bet on being good at strategy first.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

This is real leadership

Thoughts

What is the difference between leadership and management? A manager is someone making sure you cut your way through the jungle. A leader is someone who makes sure we’re in the right jungle to begin with.

We’re in a time of crisis. Managers are busy making cutbacks, weathering the storm and looking at whether to retain employees or let them go. They are trying to optimize for the moment. To survive.

They’re not especially creative. They were not hired as managers to be creative or even innovative. Rather they are looking in all the usual places for all the usual plays, and as a result we’re likely to see more of the same going forward.

Underwhelming.

And then there are the leaders. The visionaries even.

People like Jeff Bezos of Amazon.

Who invests the entire profits of an entire quarter into Covid-19 related initiatives around testing, extra risk pay for employees – existing and new who are joining in droves to meet demand.

Giving the short term thinking analysts and shareholders the bird in the meantime.

Boom!

What’s he gunning for on the longer term?

The first virus-free supply chain worldwide. A safe alternative in a time of great turmoil and anxiety. Coming with a premium. Or maybe only available to Amazon Prime members.

Who knows?

But it is the difference between deadwood management and visionary leadership.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)