Three Keys to a Winning Attitude for a Service Business
If you create value for your customer primarily through service or support, you must be responsive and flexible. Corporate cruise pioneers Joyce Landry and Josephine Kling get that, do that, and live that belief. A big part of their success over the past 30 years has revolved around their service orientation, always driving to create “elegant solutions” to business challenges. They find them if they exist, and innovate to create them if they don’t.
It’s a great example of how a responsive posture and innovation can go together.
Landry and Kling’s big, overriding innovations have been around positioning cruise ships as venues for corporate events. They’ve done incentive trips, meetings, and even used docked cruise ships as ways to create extra hotel rooms for big events like the Super Bowl. If you look at their attitude in the context of strategy, posture and culture as discussed in my article on the importance of defining your attitude, they look a lot like Ritz Carlton with 1) a strategy of support, 2) a responsive posture, and 3) a flexible culture.
1. Strategy of Support
Landry and Kling founded Landry & Kling, Inc. to provide a distribution channel between the cruise industry and corporate America. They are in a service business, helping their clients plan events. They don’t design, build or deliver cruise ships. Rather, they match their clients’ needs with cruise ships’ service standards, cruise destination/length and price. On one hand, a computer could come very close to doing those very things, but what a computer can’t do is to provide the superior knowledge, insight, and customer service to reinterpret client events at sea that Landry and Kling have imbedded into their organization.
2. Responsive Posture
While Landry and Kling stay in touch with their big clients over time and try to anticipate their needs, they can’t do anything until the client surfaces a need. Unlike the Red Cross that pre-positions resources to be able to react quickly, Landry and Kling don’t spring into action until their clients say “go.”
Don’t confuse having a responsive posture with being passive. For Landry and Kling, being responsive is a critical component of their service/support attitude. They are actively and purposefully responsive. And it works in conjunction with their strategy and culture.
3. Elegantly Flexible Culture
The only truly sustainable competitive advantage is culture. Landry and Kling have built a culture rooted in elegant flexibility. The difference between that and pure flexibility is in their passion, experience and confidence. Landry and Kling are passionate about cruising themselves and moved their business to Miami to make it easier to attract employees who share their passion.
Landry and Kling’s long-term specialization in the cruise industry has given them a knowledge base and connections that allow them to customize solutions for their clients and “to anticipate and resolve problems and overcome obstacles” far better, far more creatively and far more elegantly than can people with less focus. That experience bred the confidence required to find elegant solutions to the short-term issues created by two gulf wars, 9/11 and a slew of hurricanes.
Landry and Kling told me they pride themselves on their resiliency, crediting their ability to turn on a dime in adjusting to business issues, and the strength of their personal partnership in dealing with the inevitable personal stress points from weddings to sudden illnesses and beyond.
Get Your Attitude Right
This is not touchy-feely theoretical gibberish. Attitude is the “how win” component of BRAVE leadership. Of course it’s important to pick the right place to play. Of course your vision and values must make what matters clear. But attitude is the core of your imperative, bridging between the environment and values, and relationships and behaviors. Get your strategy, posture and culture right. And make sure they are in sync.
This is a good example of step 6 of The New Leader’s Playbook: Embed a Strong Burning Imperative
The burning imperative is a sharply defined, intensely shared, and purposefully urgent understanding from each of the team members of what they are “supposed to do, now.” Get this created and bought into early on—even if it’s only 90 percent right. You, and the team, will adjust and improve along the way.
An absolutely essential part of this is alignment around mission, vision, and values: what you have to get done; what things will look like when you get that done; and the principles you will not give up on along the way – no matter what it costs.
George Bradt is PrimeGenesis’ managing director,
and co-author of The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan (Wiley, 3rd edition 2011)