'‘Out-caring the competition’: A blueprint for an ethos among Island businesses'

Douglas Kruger

By Douglas Kruger

A FRIEND told me a horrifying medical tale. After a year of examinations, and the discovery of a hole in his heart, his doctor left the Island. No one took over the doctor’s cases. And no one told my friend.

When a few months passed with no word, he called to ask about the next step in his medical treatment, only to be asked who he was and what he wanted. It turned out, they had simply archived the doctor’s cases. All of them.

My friend found himself driving the process forward himself, insisting on a “next step”, on the grounds that he preferred not to die.

If you thought that sounded bad enough, after single-handedly getting his own treatment back on track, he then asked what was being done about the other archived cases. He was met with the reply: “What do you mean?”

“I mean, all those people who were seeing the doctor,” he replied. “You archived all their cases and didn’t tell them. What if they have serious medical conditions? Who has taken over that?”

‘Oh, that’s a good point’ was the response he received.

It boggles the mind. And it smacks of a meat-factory that perceives little more than how it processes units, not an intelligently managed system compassionately serving humans. I would like to suggest that, at least in part, it’s a symptom of insufficient competition.

Ten years ago, I wrote a book on how to become a top brand in your space. One of the simplest but most important points was this: You have to out-care your competition.

Any business, any organisation, can learn a thousand varied techniques by which to increase their overall excellence. But the very first step in the process is that you must ‘want to.’ If caring is not a fundamental part of your ethos, the many options for improvement become…too much trouble.

Many of the businesses we’ve interacted with since coming to the Island display high standards of care. But some don’t. And we wonder if it’s because they don’t believe that any competitor will ever come along and eat their breakfast. I also wonder if that is a rather shaky assumption.

Take any hypothetical business model. Say, for instance, you run a form of entertainment – maybe laser tag, or a bowling alley– and you are the only one on the Island. You might feel tempted to treat paying clients with active disdain.

Or say you’re an overburdened, socialised, medical provider. Let’s be honest: getting a patient out of your office quickly, with a minimum of inquiry into their condition, is expedient, and means less paperwork. Heck, if they pop their clogs, that’s less paperwork still.

But that is not exactly “out-caring the competition”, is it? It is not an ethos of excellence. And that is perhaps one reason why increased competition is a good thing in principle. It is humanising for clients when providers are forced to care or they will simply lose business to those who will.

There is a related issue, and it’s one of benchmarking. The best benchmarking is done globally, not locally. For a medical provider, or a bowling alley, to benchmark according to the Island alone is insufficiently aspirational. Where there’s no competition, you’re already good enough, even if you’re terrible.

Yet your customers no longer live exclusively in the Island, do they? At the very least, we now have TV, YouTube, stats from other nations.

But much experience is also first-hand, for this is an Island populated with no small number of high-net-worth individuals, and they may be comparing your organisation to equivalents in London, Los Angeles, or Dubai.

Plus, it’s not just the super-rich who travel these days. Most people have seen a better version somewhere else; a version run by proprietors who must out-care the competition daily, or face extinction.

There are places on the planet where frontline staff even have budgets by which to “delight customers”. That’s a far cry from a medical institution forgetting to pick up potentially fatal cases after a doctor leaves, or a kids’ entertainment establishment where the bloke in charge thinks he can mouth off to paying mums.

Excellence is a choice. It is a mindset. It begins with the leadership in any institution, and their active display of going the extra mile for those whom they have the privilege of serving.

Excellence calls upon a certain grandeur of vision; it’s not for the petty or mean-spirited. It’s certainly not for a business owner who sees “units” instead of actual human beings and their subjective experience.

But excellence is also undeniably the finest argument for the prosperity of your establishment, and its greatest bulwark against failure.

If you run an organisation in Jersey, take this litmus test: If you truly wanted to out-care the competition, what would you start doing differently? And if you were benchmarking to be globally competitive, not just locally acceptable, what would change?

I dare you to do it.

I dare you to execute on an ambitious level, even though no one is compelling you to do so. Instead of being merely “good enough for the locals”, how might it look if you had the courage to think at a world-class level?

Bet you it would change everything.

  • Douglas Kruger writes and speaks on excellence in leadership and business. He is the author of books like Own Your Industry and They’re Your Rules, Break Them! He has won several awards as a professional speaker, and now lives in St Helier. Meet him at douglaskruger.com.

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