Here let me read it to you. Best to listen straight off Spotify though, the browser version is buggy.
Trapped in our own sitcom
How often do you deal with a company and think: can I really be the first to experience stupidity at a world-class level? And how is this company still in business?
For the first time, we needed to buy a small forklift for our Adelaide warehouse. It turned up on the back of a truck. We expected some kind of tilt-tray truck, but no, it was a regular flat-bed one. It was unclear how the forklift was going to make that final step to ground level.
Then a question that made us wonder if we were secretly being filmed for a sitcom pilot.
“Have you got a forklift?” asked the driver.
Uh, no, that’s why we ordered one from you, the forklift people.
He had no other suggestions. Just shrugs and the general vibe that we shouldn’t really buy a forklift unless we were equipped to take delivery using another forklift.
A classic chicken and the egg situation. How did the first forklift get delivered?
We had to doorknock random neighbourhood businesses until we found one that had a forklift they didn’t mind driving down the street.
Had they not experienced this situation before? Did all their previous customers have a spare forklift on hand?
I’m guessing we weren’t the first, which raises the question: how many times do they have to do it before they realise it’s a problem? Once you can kinda forgive. More than one and we’re in Dumb and Dumber territory.
It’s not something that comes up in job interviews but a good question would be:
“Do you suffer from Consequence Blindness?”
They’ll never believe what happens next
Your business success depends on how many moves down the board you can see. How one action leads to another. How people will react to that action and what they’ll do. The longer you’ve been doing it, the more your spider senses tell you how complex situations might play out.
It’s useful to observe your staff for signs of Consequence Blindness.
The forklift company are one-move guys. They would run naked through a thistle field, dry pets in the microwave, and accept invitations to “jump on a quick call” with new LinkedIn connections.
And be totally surprised by what happens next.
You see more of this kind of thing as businesses cut back service staff to skeletal levels. Back at head office, they’re convinced it’s all good. They’re showing each other slides on how to move from good to great.
But on the front lines, it’s bottom of the evolutionary ladder stuff. Because they’re still paying those people the same rock-bottom wages as 2019, and all the good ones have moved on.
Does head office know what’s going on? Possibly not, as automated customer service surveys hit plague proportions. I did a quick count through my inbox: 24 in the last seven days, from hotels, airlines, telcos, post office and the like. I’m not opening any of them, and I’m guessing you don’t either.
Why would you bother when there’s nothing in it for you? That data is just for their Tuesday morning PowerPoint charts, rather than any genuine care about unhappy customers. There’s no benefit for you.
So you have entire businesses drifting along believing everything is fine, because nobody’s telling them otherwise. By the time it shows up in declining revenue, it’s really hard to fix.
If you’re not having regular human conversations with at least a sample of your client base, you could be in deep trouble right now and not know a thing about it.
The brand you can never remove from your brain
Side-note: I’ll never do another forklift-themed story, so let’s finish the job. Quick what’s the first forklift brand you think of?
For me, and I’m guessing anyone who remembers free-to-air TV and radio, their jingle is installed deep in our brain firmware until the day we die.
Sung by a fluoro-vest man choir, with the greatest tuba line to ever grace a TV ad. Or maybe the only one. You know what I’m talking about:
“There is nothing like a Crown
For picking it up
And putting it down.”
There’s another verse, something something high in the air. But like the national anthem, you don’t remember verse two and don’t need to.
This was as low-budget an ad as you’ll ever see. Yet simplicity, repetition and sheer consistency means Crown is the only forklift brand you know. As far as I can tell it ran from the 80’s to at least 2010, largely unchanged.
Here’s the 1982 version, it’s the same but with more brown cardigans. I bow down to their restraint in not fixing what ain’t broke:
Try to think of a single banner ad or YouTube pre-roll that you’ll recall perfectly an hour later, let alone in three decades. Not happening. Because that Crown song talks to a different part of your brain.
Also, all those meetings you spend debating the minute details of product benefits and differentiation, as if customers are as obsessed with it as you are? And coming up with brand slogans like “Unleash your better” or “We’re with you”.
How does that line up against the primeval simplicity of picking it up, and putting it down? To circle back (sorry) to my recent September story, it’s the ba-dee-ya of forklifts. We all love it.
Crown were the first people we thought of when we needed a forklift. Unfortunately for our modest forklift needs they were way beyond our budget. But I’m sure they would have delivered it like Special Fork Force commandos.
Crown tastes on a trucker hat budget, that’s us.
Got a comment?
I’ve stopped moderating the blog comments because I get like 50 Russian bot comments a day. But why not drop your comment over on LinkedIn? Let me know what gives you that early years tingle.
And if this story was useful or entertaining for you, why not help me out by sharing it? It’s a ton of work getting these stories out, and more readers really helps me justify the insane effort each week. Bless you.
Why not buy this nice book?
Want a step-by-step guide to how to set up a business that you don’t even have to work in day-to-day? Or just some light business-y entertainment? Get both in Undisruptable: Timeless Business Truths For Thriving In A World Of Nonstop Change out on Penguin Random House.
Every week since it came out, it’s the #1 Review-Rated biz book on all of Booktopia. On paper, electronic or audio book with me reading it. Get it here:
Also I write a story each Tuesday, drop your email here to get it in your inbox.
For those of you in geo-blocked countries, here’s your non-Spotify audio: