Value Can be as Elusive as the Mythical Gene-in-the-Lantern
Recently, following a visit to my home and the subsequent harvesting of my grapefruit tree, my friend found herself needing gasoline for her car late that evening. Upon arriving at a gas station, a person seemingly to be homeless offered to pump her gas for a tip. She declined his offer; not wanting to contribute to what she believed would be his next bottle of booze.
Still, wanting to make a difference for this “homeless” person—and highly appreciating the grapefruit from my tree—placed a few of her yellow prizes in “his” shopping cart. He tells her that he can’t eat the grapefruits without a knife. She explains to him that they are so sweet and delicious that she just peals them and enjoys them like she would a tangerine or orange.
His retort was that he would need a grapefruit spoon to eat them and he hands the grapefruit back to her. She was utterly amazed that he, apparently homeless, would turn down such a wonderful gift.
Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation, less the grapefruit, with a business or supply chain partner?
At first take, it would seem that this homeless person was quite ungrateful toward my friend’s generous offer. However, upon closer examination, one might arrive at a different conclusion? Exploring the situation further, this homeless person desired to get paid in return for a rudimentary service. The value for which he sought was negotiable tender—hard cash, for purchasing whatever he liked. What he was offered was something to eat—not what he wanted. No question, the food offered was wholesome, nutritious, and tasty—but, not the cash he wanted.
Applicable to Any Organization
This value lesson is applicable in personal and organizational situations alike. In a casual interaction as described in the above example, do you find yourself becoming aggravated when another person declines your offer? The key idea upon which to focus is this—just because you find something valuable, it doesn’t mean the other person considers your offer to be of value to them. In one’s personal life this can have an enormous affect on the quality of one’s relationships.
In the business environment, not delivering the value for which your strategic alliance partner, supplier, customer, or employee wanted can also devastate the relationship. This is a frequent reason for alliances failing, customers moving on, and so forth.
How Do I Know What They Want?
Once you have accepted the premise that it is important to deliver the value the other wants, which I realize is counter intuitive to the “Golden Rule” of delivering what you would want, only then are you ready to develop what I call “Outrageously Successful Relationships” in business and life.
Now the challenge is to be aware of what the other person or organization considers being valuable. As an example, you might be invited to a new acquaintance’s house for dinner. Not knowing them well, and definitely not wanting to show up empty handed—you grab a bottle of fine wine from your personal supply as you leave for their house. Since you like red wine, that is what you select to take. You get there, offer the wine and it is not opened but rather white wine is served with a red meat.
The reason for white wine is that the host has an allergic reaction to red wine. This example is not too far off the grapefruit story in so much as the offering did not create real value for the intended recipient. What could have been done different in this wine example? Sure, you could have called ahead and asked—it’s just that simple.
How can this be done in a business situation? Similarly, you can simply ask. If for some reason that would not work, other options include:
- Call your contact’s secretary, assistant, or other operational person. They will generally have a good handle on the preferences of their boss.
- Talk to their suppliers.
- Talk to their customers.
- Send a pre-meeting/activity survey.
- Conduct an Internet search on the executive or organization for background information.
- Be creative, be complete, and be certain about what the other considers to be valuable.
Yes, value can be as elusive as that Gene-in-the-Bottle; if you do not take the time to determine the other person’s value equation and parameters. Answering the title question, value to whom—just because you consider something to be of value, there is no guarantee that the other person will see it the way you do. Use this to your advantage and enjoy watching your competitors stumble.