I’ve married the love of my life, and I’m on my honeymoon in Europe.
It’s been a fantastic trip. To my detriment though, I struggle to switch off. Well, that’s not entirely true - a few glasses of vino and a seafood banquet overlooking the Atlantic coast in Portugal is an effective cure at the moment.
By 'switching off', I mean I continually think about my business. I love it, it’s a passion of mine and it’s so awesome to get the chance from time to time to travel and see how other countries and industries conduct their day-to-day.
Being a tourist in a foreign country you squeeze the life out every little thing that a particular place has to offer. You’re constantly struggling with FOMO syndrome, with so many restaurants and sights to see.
I like the adventure side of travelling: no itinerary, just go with it. My wife though - not so. She is an excellent traveller and has an awesome knack of establishing the right balance of research and adventure. She’ll study the Lonely Planet guide, research online, and talk to friends and family to create a mud map (see what I did there…?). If it were up to me we’d be lost somewhere in the middle of Romania without a visa and nowhere to go (true story, save that one for another blog).
As we’re making our way around Europe and eating out, it got me thinking, 'why am in this country, in this town, at this restaurant, eating this dish, in this particular way?' I’ve come to this conclusion: institutions.
I’ve just come home from the best dinner. My wife, as she always does, found this great restaurant she’d read about in a little coastal town just south of Porto in Portugal called O Tasco. We set off for the evening, with the restaurant being roughly two blocks from our hotel. We arrive at the place and from the outset, simply by looking at the façade, I’m sceptical. To compare it to something from home, you’re looking at a country Chinese joint out west in the middle of nowhere. So I ask her, “Are you sure this is the joint?”
She nods her head.
We walk in and all the waiters are wearing lime green shirts, they look me in the eye. However, rather than coming over, they let me stand there for a good 30 seconds until I muster the courage to walk in and approach one them and say “Olá”, after which he quickly sorts us a table, and we’re off.
The entire place is full of local families and they’re all eating the same dish; it’s a squid and potato share dish. Now for those of you who are lucky enough to have visited Portugal will attest that the seafood over here is absolutely unreal - they simply nail it. So I ask the waiter what he’d recommend, he quickly replies, “Simple my friend, our speciality; the squid”. Feeling a like I could have probably guessed that, I say “done!” and in less than 15 mins we have this amazing dish on our table and it was the best squid I’ve ever eaten. Simple ingredients done so well.
I look around and the place is packed – there are people lined up at the door and the place is pumping for a little family restaurant. On the wall, to the left of the huge Fatima shrine, are family photos and an est. 1974 plaque.
This place is an institution. People come here for a particular product. I’m guessing to be considered an institution for a product (particularly in the hospitality industry) would be the holy grail. A self-perpetuating sales stream born out of a product that a business owns and nails.
It’s business 101: Create a market for a product, make it consistent and people will come.
O Tasco was, is, and will be the institution for this dish for many years. So, it got me thinking again: I reckon it comes down to two fundamental ingredients:
- The product
Now I know you might be thinking, 'Josh, this is pretty obvious stuff here mate...' and I agree with you. However, if everyone could acquire these, then every business would cement itself as a self-perpetuating success. We all know simply isn’t the case, with 9/10 small businesses failing within the first 12 months.
The obvious and most important key ingredient to creating a business institution, I believe, is the product.
Applied to my business, if Mudbath were to institutionalise a product or strive for this holy grail, then what is it? What should be our focus? What’s our product?
This is a tricky one… we’re privileged to make so many awesome products for our valued clients every day, ranging from small business solutions to enterprise applications – so it had me stumped. Then I realised our product, Mudbath’s product, is our Process.
People come to us because our Process is unique, consistent and successful. As an example, we’ve commoditised our User Experience (UX) phase as a means of Visual Requirements Definition, allowing, at earlier phases of the product, to gain critical insights into how the product should work and feel through the eyes of our customer.
I think the trickier of the two ingredients I mentioned is by far consistency.
At Mudbath, we use our process as a means of creating and generating consistency for our solution delivery. When we embark on creating a digital product for a client, we apply a process through which we can create a consistent outcome for our partners.
Using hospitality as good way to draw parallels; in order to achieve the same dish the guys created for us at that restaurant on that particular night, certain processes needed to be followed in order to create this consistency, e.g source the squid from a trusted vendor, ensure it’s fresh, ensure there is enough for the volume, ensure adequate staff can handle volume, etc.
For us it’s similar.
For example, have we embarked on enough discovery workshops to ensure our Information Architects can relay the visual requirements to the Business Analyst; the Business Analyst then documents the product in enough detail in order for an Engineer (Developer) to build the product, and our PM's are there to ask, 'has there been enough client consultation in the visual creative for the client to feel empowered by the design', etc.
All these things need to be consistent in order to generate a consistent outcome.
Key goals for this blog
- Say wife as many times as you could: Pass
- Boast about food and travel so staff get jealous: Pass
- Stop thinking about business: Fail