Prescott is a graduate of Babson College, served as an officer in the US Marine Corps, trained police officers at the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, launched POLITICO Pro Defense, and now serves as the International Research Consultant for his family business, 300 Below, Inc. After cardiac arrest, brief death, and subsequent revival, his reflections on an inspired second chance at life are posted here daily.
Reflecting beyond the day I found out why.
“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
One little detail awry is often the source of a downward spiral. For our team, we focus on process control. Not unlike many businesses, clients tell us what process they desire, and we control the variables to make sure it happens according to plan. The biggest challenge is asking the right questions up front to get the best info needed to make professional decisions in the absence of client input.
According to my friend, Joey Coleman, customer service is what you do when things go wrong, customer experience is what you do the rest of the time. Regardless of what business you’re in, every transaction is accompanied by expectations, and a relationship is built through consistency in meeting these expectations every single time. Emotions and feelings encircle the time before and between transactions throughout a business relationship. One of the biggest challenges with our business is running custom projects for clients who have multi-million dollar “mission critical” projects.
Learning to deal with uncertainty is a hallmark of the training we received in the Marine Corps. They taught us to rapidly embrace LtCol Boyd’s OODA loop… OBSERVE what happens, ORIENT yourself and your resources, make a DECISION, and take ACTION. The process repeats in perpetuity, and in business or in war, you win when you’re able to go through this loop faster than your competition.
In theory, this is much simpler when you’re in charge, and capable of making Decisions to take Action. Add client input though, and the cycle comes to a screeching halt, delayed by further external evaluation and decision making.
In our case, we have clients who are contractors beholden to a government agency with specific timelines. Our focus shifts to empowering our clients to act within government guidelines, because they are ultimately responsible for the project’s OODA loop, puling the trigger on the decision, and empowering us to take action on their behalf. Our team must remain responsible for relaying our observation and orientation following any action that we take, and the cycle repeats. We are incentivized to provide closer communication, which allows faster analysis, resulting in effective decision making.
Today reminded me how many little details we constantly have to focus on to ensure a successful outcome. We even feel responsible when our client’s equipment (their way to confirm the process we are executing) falls short of accurately validating the additional information requested. We decided that in order to provide good customer service, we should have a similar one on hand, but that comes with further complications of a 16 week wait time to get the same piece of equipment. In today’s rapidly-changing business environment, an additional 4 months of anticipation built into future projects is fraught with its own complexities. Many new hires don’t even last that long!
Every time a mistake is made, or the unexpected happens, we must move beyond Murphy’s Law to create an additional checklist item or in-depth procedure to attempt to prevent future fall out. Little details from the legality of who has access to our facility, to how the parts are handled, to what we wear (or don’t wear) while handling customer items is not all that different from any other business. Yet I find a deeper appreciation for all of the upfront preparation we must continue to think through before the next transaction as we strive to build deeper relationships with each and every customer that chooses to trust us with their resources.