Interview Jonas Ridderstrale Zurück
Geoff Burch
1. How is it possible to achieve business success in today's attempts for creating a global business environment? How could a company differentiate itself in a market which tends to be standardised?

We all strive to create good quality products – in fact there are many systems that allow us to manage the quality, such as total quality management or TQM. Every company in existence now is using these systems but that simply is not good enough. If you look at the personal music player market, everybody makes a good product but the kids only want the Ipod. This is not because it is technically the best but it is a product that is REMARKABLE. We must therefore strive to be REMARKABLE – in other words have a product or deliver a service that everybody talks about. As an exercise, tell me, which bank is remarkable, which airline is remarkable, which hotel is remarkable? I don’t mean just quality, which one do you talk about?

2. How could the top management of a company keep the employees motivated in the long run? What are the key points on this regard? Could you please give us some concrete examples?

The only way to keep employees motivated is to involve them in the whole business process, to sell them the stories of the business. If they just carry out the business processes through fear or rules, they only know how to do things but not why they do things and therefore never have true involvement or ownership of the problems. I say to my audiences, you would never go to Disney and see Mickey Mouse with his head unscrewed enjoying a cigarette! The employees do this through understanding and involvement, not through fear. Make sure every member of your team understands and is involved with every aspect of your organisation – and don’t create goals and targets which contradict other peoples’ work. I tell the story of a Roman galley where each supervisor for each side of the boat is offered a bonus for hard work. Because the right side is a better manager, the boat goes round in circles. Message – we all have to pull together in the same direction.

3. What is the secret for any company that manufactures and/or sells its products in order to keep the sales to a high level? Should the management invest more in employees' selling skills/ techniques?

First of all, sales should be pulled by the customer not pushed by the business. In other words, a traditional company would manufacture huge amounts of product that they found easiest to make and then they would hope that the salespeople could sell it (which often they couldn’t without offering huge discounts to clear unwanted inventory). Now I believe that the salespeople should go out, find what the customers want and get the factory to make it. This is possible now with the internet and computers that move at the speed of light, it is just that management thinking moves at the speed of snails. Toyota makes this work very successfully. For all businesses, big or small, everyone should have the intention to sell. Finding and keeping customers is the only activity that generates revenue. Everything else involves us in cost. Production minus sales equals scrap! To this end, everyone from van drivers to store men will benefit from even the simplest sales training.

4. How can you make and keep customers loyal to your business brand?

The only way to keep the customers loyal is by using our people as ambassadors. It is only with a one hundred percent complete dialogue with our customers that we know what they are thinking and planning. There is no point in having customer satisfaction surveys that just give percentage results whilst we fail to listen to individual customers. The first thing that I do when I enter a new company is to ring customers that have left over past years, to find out what happened and what we need to do to get them back in the fold. Companies that do this can recover thirty percent of their lost business with just an afternoon’s telephoning.

5. What is your advice for people wanting to start their own business? What do they really need besides a solid capital to invest in their new business?

The first piece of advice I give to people who want to start a business is to discuss your business idea with your worst enemy, because your friends will never tell you the truth. I call this the Ugly Baby syndrome. For instance, if a very dear friend showed you their very ugly baby, you would never tell them the truth would you, as you wouldn’t want to hurt their feelings, but when we are in the gritty world of wanting to start our own business, we need to hear the truth – no matter how painful. The other thing that I warn people against is trying a truly dramatic new idea because pioneers are people you find face down in the dust with arrows in their backs. I think the best thing to do is to take a well established business idea, take all the good bits, reject the bad bits, and become the very best.

6. How do you succeed in always keeping your business audience attentive/receptive to your presentations? Is there any secret recipe in managing people that every top manager or leader should keep in mind?

I always succeed in keeping my business audiences attentive – but I am not sure they are always receptive! I see it as my job to be funny, fast moving, but most of all challenging. If anybody in my audience shows me an ugly baby, I will tell them that it is ugly! I want people to leave my presentations feeling provoked into thinking some new ideas and trying some different ways of doing things – after all people don’t pay to come and see a speaker just to be reassured. Your mother can do that. My final comment in managing people is, that it is a manager’s job to catch people doing things right. If people are acknowledged and encouraged and are not afraid to bring mistakes to your attention, you will get far better results than if they are threatened with terrible punishments.
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