In a recent meeting of a group of small business bloggers I meet with, two of the participants got into an interesting confrontation. The discussion opened when one business owner was handing out some of his wares to promote his business to the other participants at the meeting. When asked where he came up with some of the items he was passing out, the businessman proudly stated that the move was part of his “business orientation”, aimed at increasing his bottom line.
This assertion led to a spirited rejoinder from another business owner, who proclaimed that she succeeded because of her “customer orientation”. She went on to state that because she was always listening to what her customer base was looking for, her business plan was crafted to meet the customer’s needs, not her business’ needs.
The strong response that his initial assertion provoked caused the first businessman to back down and meekly respond that he, too, also paid attention to what the customer was looking for.
In reflecting on this spirited discussion, I began to wonder if all business decisions were based on what the customer wants/needs rather than on what the business wants/needs. My initial conclusion was there is really no difference.
That view changed when I read a review by Gina Smith of Information Week slamming AT&T’s recent decision to acquire rival T-Mobile (“Meet the Old Ma, Same as the Old Ma – Five Reasons Wireless Subscribers Will Suffer Under AT&T/T-Mobile Deal”). In her article, Ms. Smith detailed how this purchase will lead to less competition, less innovation and higher prices for consumers. When you look closer, Ms. Smith is outlining how a “Business Orientation” drives a business decision regardless of what the customer base wants/needs.
The same could be said for Verizon’s decision to halt all new installations of its heralded FIOS infrastructure to puff up its bottom line because of a possible buyout offer by another telecom firm. Customers (like me) who are eagerly awaiting FIOS’ arrival locally are on indefinite hold because of this “Business Oriented” decision.
Can you see other examples?