Possibly the greatest political strategist of the last half-century, James Carville, coined the phrase "It's the economy, stupid" as a reminder to (then) Governor Bill Clinton (and his hundreds of supporters) of where he ought to focus his attention in his 1992 campaign for President.
Whilst it may have been a simple (even crass) message, it worked!
As I think about businesses that find themselves in trouble I invariably turn my thinking to a variation of Carville's message - for me the phrase becomes "It's the customer, stupid."
A failure to relentlessly focus on and deliver for customers is THE key reason why businesses and their leaders lose their way. Complacency resulting from past success often leads to a hubris & sense of comfort - after all, why fix it when it's not broken?
But habitual delivery for customers is THE core to every great business.
Understanding WHAT the customer wants, HOW they want it provided and WHY they want it is paramount to long term success.
Having staff obsessed with serving (and I use that word, "serving", deliberately), training them & then trusting them, through real empowerment, to deliver is absolutely essential.
Every conversation with a customer should begin with "How can I help YOU today" and end with "Is there anything else I can help YOU with today".
Customers should be constantly reminded that they are important, that without them there is nothing and that their custom IS your business.
Boards & Senior Management should disembark from their towers and spend more time listening to and understanding their customers - hear it first hand, not through consultants and "voice of the customer" feedback surveys.
Managers should spend less time reviewing spreadsheets & reports and more time talking to their customers - living in their shoes and truly understand the WHAT, the HOW and the WHY.
Businesses that aren't operating as they should, aren't efficient enough, agile enough, delivering enough need only one piece of advice to begin their turn-around journey....."It's the customer, stupid!"
It may be a simple (even crass) message, but it works!