While they failed to clarify the race for presidency, the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries taught us a lot.
Mike Huckabee's victory in Iowa over Mitt Romney shows that it is more important to connect with people than it is to be organized. Romney, the man with all the business experience, set up a highly sophisticated operation in Iowa. He was the clear leader before Jan. 3, based on the money he spent to put a professional campaign team in place in the state. Huckabee ran a much more modest operation. He didn't have nearly the money nor the organization. And he won. Whether you like Huckabee's message or not, it resonated with Iowans, and that is all that mattered when the results were tallied after the caucuses.
John McCain's victory on the Republican side in New Hampshire shows that we shouldn't pay any attention to the so-called experts. You might remember my post of April 19 last year where I reported on a presentation I heard by James Carville in which he predicted John McCain would drop out of the race before the Iowa caucuses. Carville, a political expert if ever there was one, clearly got it wrong. Not only was McCain still in the race, but he actually finished on top in one of the early states.
And third, Hillary Clinton's victory on the Democrat side in New Hampshire shows that we shouldn't pay any attention to polls. Going into the Jan. 8 primary, all the polls had Barack Obama winning handily. There was even talk about Hillary getting out of the race after her dismal showing in Iowa. But she won convincingly in New Hampshire, exposing the various polls as utterly worthless.
These lessons have application in the business arena. While it is important to have good systems in place, as Romney had in Iowa, it is far more important to have a product which resonates with potential customers. If your market is excited about your product, they will put up with minor delivery inefficiencies, but if they don't like your product, the best distribution system in the world won't do you any good.
Also in business, there are a million consultants who want you to pay them to tell you what to do. They position themselves as experts who know more than you do. Maybe some of them do, but most of them don't. If you are running a business or a department, you probably know more about what to do than anyone. People in business have to figure out who to listen to, and what expertise to pay for. But ultimately they have to make the important decisions themselves. A sure way to tank your business is to rely too heavily on the experts.
And finally, a lot of businesses spend big money on customer satisfaction surveys. I think these kinds of surveys are fine, but people in business should refrain from over-relying on them. Clinton proved that surveys provide only marginally-reliable information. Let's face it: a lot of people lie on surveys. People wrestle with all kinds of influences with they respond to pollsters or survey-takers. A lot of people simply tell the pollster what they think they want to hear to get it over with. Honest communication about anything takes a lot of time; a survey is rarely the best way to get an honest story.
tMichaelB is the web site for Tom Bengtson, who writes about business, religion, family and politics.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
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