Develop the Right Kind of Stink

My mother is an artist. My father is a farmer. My father likes to say, “The only thing I can draw is flies.” I like to say, “A wise businessman ought to develop the right kind of stink.” He wants to repel the misfits and attract those that will lay eggs in his pile. The result is mutual selection.

In professional circles, this ‘aw shucks’ saying can be converted into Net Promoter Score (NPS) handling. Everyone wants to achieve high NPS scores, where customers become your largest unpaid sales force. And, disciplined businessmen know that prevention of misfit customers and employees prevents waste.

There is another super power, which uses the prospective low, or actual misfits to repel other misfits, and throw off signals to target customers. If you send certain types of misfits packing with the language of discontent that resonates with your target audience, you’ve made something special out of your discipline. Teach them precisely how you “stink.”

For example, when we terminate employees for cause we like them to go around town saying how honest and goodie two shoes we are. Of course, I’d prefer they use something more akin to “ostentatiously virtuous” but my guess is they were not coherent during training.

Ideally, this function can be completed before much expense is accrued. Earlier this week I had a portfolio company manager tell me a story of a candidate, applying for a job, that was using his salary versus small workload as a negotiating chip with her. She said, “Sounds like you don’t want to work and should stay there.” He was dissatisfied with her honesty. I was proud of her. We have a culture of enjoying our work and don’t want to poison our well with this attitude.

A few months back I had a customer submit a horrific complaint to one of our companies. As in, “I never want to speak to anyone from this company ever again” sort of comment. The manager alerted me because he met our bull’s eye customer persona. I investigated. Our team had messed up by misleading him. I called him to apologize for our error. He was shocked and pleased. I simply felt bad because it reflected poorly on my values, one of which is “confront the facts.” And the facts were, we screwed up. He appreciated it and asked to meet. I then drove hours to meet him. He went from furious to deeply committed to our brand, even demonstrating it by walking me through the referrals he had made and intended to make if we could follow through. However, by the end of the meeting, I realized that we needed to tell him plain and simple: “We cannot do it.” We cannot meet his expectations and he wouldn’t be able to work with us –yet. I liked his ideas, but we are not ready for him, yet. That is the sort of hold-back pheromone that will close the deal when we are ready. It takes discipline and patience. I do the same thing with prospective investment partners. Went it doesn’t fit, we don’t do it. Period.

Please go away and tell others we are disciplined. Heck, tell people we are bull-headed idiots. I don’t care. The fact is, we know our little niche and like it. We’re the best on the planet at it, and it’s going to be impossible to dislodge us from our tiny pond. Is that a waste of time for you? Great. Go away. Unsubscribe.

As business owners –and especially as entrepreneurs– we must look beyond the formal boundaries of our enterprises. It’s not today’s customer that matters most, but the type of customer that we are perfect for that deserves nourishment. And, it’s the time-suck losers that need to be repelled.

Our time is precious and our pile stinks.

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