pirates in suits

The coordinated interplay of the various departments within a company is a similar challenge to steering a fleet on the wide ocean: how can you direct the various vessels in such a way that they behave like a fleet, and not like a bunch of uncoordinated pirate ships aloof?

Most likely this challenge depends on what you want to achieve with your company (fleet), and how you want to reach your goals.
In most cases, the goal is the same, not unlike to those sailing a (pirate)boat: ensuring the prosperity for the company by generating turnover (or delivering the goods).

If a company wants to reach this goal in the fastest possible manner, turning to piracy is the solution. But if your goal is to establish a lasting relationship with your customer, you might be better off to run a commercial fleet. Both approaches will bring a return…

The temptation is quite big though, to copy Jack Sparrow: you float teh seven seas and board every ship that crosses your way. You motivate your staff with the prospect of huge booty and gallons of rum, and, as long you deliver parts of the prey at the chief pirate, you are set for prosperity – all board!

But as we know, this form of prosperity often comes along with a nasty curse – just laying back after the piracy and peacefully spend the booty is hardly the case…

I personally experienced the introduction of the piracy concept during my stay in a large company, and finally saw it fail utterly.
A new CEO came on board and immediately called for action: “We need more revenue since our shareholders expect more return on their investments!” (At that time it sounded to me if those ‘shareholders’ were a bunch of chief pirates, impatiently waiting in their pirate-bay for the returning vessels, full of gold and jewels. Only later I learned that there also is another type of ‘shareholder’…)

Well, as they were told, many managers set sail and really started to enjoy their new occupation – it’s quite more fulfilling and much quicker to create revenue being a pirate! Way better than having to carry around the ballast from the ‘old’ approach, where law and order were hampering individual action and swiftness. Freed from having to relate to the others in the company, these ‘pirates’  sailed from one boarding to the other, and their booty grew and grew…

You get it by now: the treasure they acquired turned out to be cursed. But even worse, also the pirates themselves were cursed from now on and changed into fish-headed zombies… What happened?

The booty those pirates made we would call ‘bad profits’ these days – these profits did not come from loyal motivated customers, they were stolen from them. And even if an admirable guy like Jack Sparrow is doing it, as soon as customers find out that they were ‘boarded’, any loyal relationship and the trust is gone.

If telcos, banks and energy suppliers try to fool their customers with in-transparent offers and complicated pricing and make them pay more than needed, they also ‘board’ them and behave  like pirates.
Same counts for those that promise a customer experience of some sort and do not deliver on it – the profits, which are resulting from a relationship which customer do not regarded as authentic and worth recommending, turn out to be bad profits in the end. These customers will find out that they were robbed, and furthermore will avoid the ‘sea’. And they will warn their friends and relatives, which in the end quickly reduces the chance for even further successful piracy…

Well, the company I worked for finally discovered it was cursed because of the bad profits they acquired, and it took them years to get rid of it, actually, they still have not fully recovered.

What did they do to get over it? When customers started to experience that the company was (again) truly providing and rendering an authentic and consistent service, they developed more trust and started to promote the experience they had to others again. More and more customers dared to go out on the sea and into a relationship with the company. The resulting profits were good profits – eventually, the profits grew to bigger than ever before (and even the chief pirates waiting in the bay could not complain).

The next step the company took is to improve on the experience itself, in order to increase the revenue further, and with that the good profits.

Because there was one insight that they took out of their curse as a lesson for life, and it turned out to be the crucial learning for their success: Jack Sparrow is way cooler than just a dumb guy from the commercial fleet – so if you want to fully leverage from your customer’s loyalty and promotion, it’s crucial not take from their pockets, but to take their breath with an extraordinary experience!

So come on, all hands on deck and board!

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