On Being Everything to Everybody

Our routine Saturday meetings with our help desk executives do not have much spark these days. It has been so, for the past few years. The usage levels of our services have been dipping. So has been the case with their enthusiasm levels.

Yesterday, I had a good chat with them during our weekly meeting. I highlighted the diminishing relevance of Concierge Services, across all the companies where we have our desks. A month ago, I had wondered aloud during our meeting with them, whether we should continue offering such services.

Many of the jobs for which Service Square was known during the initial years – train tickets, bill payments, getting movie and entertainment tickets – are all done easily on internet. These services are now obsolete for a company like ours. It was difficult for a few of our executives to imagine how we could even contemplate exiting the raison d’etre of Service Square.

During the meeting, our executive at eBay, Muthu, asked me concerning the hint I had given earlier about continuance of our concierge services in corporate organizations. His and his co-workers’ careers are linked to this decision.

When I outlined the distinct branding and positioning strategies of various Indian and International companies and juxtaposed them against what people perceived about Service Square’s positioning, the message sank in. All the executives present agreed that we are known as an ‘A to Z’ company, particularly for bill payment, ticket purchase etc.

The fact is, we are not perceived as offering anything specific, instead, we are an amorphous entity known for offering every vague thing possible. We just can’t be everything to everybody and still do justice. Contrary to what most people think, less is more, as I wrote in one of my earlier posts.

We had read the signs of things to come right from 2005 and moved into services which need human hands. While we focus on our core services, we also have concierge services to tend to. There is a ‘split’ because we continue to sail in two or more boats.

Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great speaks about following the hedgehog concept which is doing that one thing we are passionate about, best at and where profitability resides, in order to became a great organization.

Focused action alone will provide the high energy levels needed to produce results – whether it is in the lives of individuals or that of companies.

At the end of the meeting our executives understood that if we are not clear about our positioning, customers would be too confused to take us seriously. And, if we did not shed our ‘A to Z’ tag, prospects and customers would not discover our core areas of strengths in housekeeping, floor polishing etc.

There is also the plight of able executives spending their time sweating the very small stuff. Of them staring at dipping business and coming for Saturday meetings with sagging spirits. And of shrinking their minds with less than ordinary challenges at work. And of getting used to the safety of comfort zones, even with too little.

There was no holding back from the executives about how I have been operating from my smallest self. I admitted I let myself drift and let everyone else too – all because we did not grasp an essential philosophy of life – about the impossibility of being everything to everybody.

I suggested to them that it is time for the organization to play for high stakes. And for every staff to aim for bigger challenges at work. They got the message that only if they learned to expand the mind’s borders, could they expect their financial situation to improve substantially.

I also told them about why, only a day earlier, I declined a very good enquiry for concierge services that came our way, from a major real estate developer, through a very good friend of  mine. I had told my friend, we are tired of being everything to everybody and are planning to focus only on those services where we are very good at.

There are temptations to continue offering concierge services. We still get some revenue out of this business. Yet, not taking this step will retard our growth and put the company at greater risk.

I wish we had arrived at this decision a lot earlier. This identity confusion for our organisations has caused a lot of avoidable bloodletting, sweat and tears. For several loyal workers and especially for me. It has been hard, living in the sidelines, filled with numbness. This is now the time to break free.

About two hours after the meeting I got an sms from Muthu, “Really nice talk with you sir during the meeting. Very happy, sir”.

I just said to myself, ‘Good. It is time to move on. And walk the talk.

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