Welcome to the bloggy home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Percolate and general internet tinkerer. This site is about media, culture, technology, and randomness. It's been around since 2004 (I'm pretty sure). Feel free to get in touch. Get in touch.

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Sincerity and Cannibalism

I don’t mean to be a JetBlue whore, but it’s time to talk about them again. Looks like my last post about them preceded a hurricane (or blizzard) of negative press.

Clearly passengers were right in their anger towards the company, especially those that were stuck on the runway in the plane for like eight hours. But the sign of a strong company (and person) is how the bounce back from adversity.

I think JetBlue’s Customer Bill of Rights and CEO David Neeleman’s apology are a step in the right direction.

What really amazes me about the video is the sincerity. Everyone says you need to be passionate about your customers and your business, but few people live it. You can tell when someone really cares: You can see it in their eyes. When I watch that video what I see is a man who is deeply disturbed by what happened and is making every effort to ensure that it’s never repeated. Maybe it’s an act, but if that’s the case I’d be pretty damn impressed. As James Hong put it:

[Customer Service is a good sign] of a good company. not just because it makes customers happy, but because it shows a company CARES about their customers. They understand who they are building for, and i’m sure sensitivity to customer’s feelings extends down to the engineers building the product. Often times, the things that make a product great are very low level details that arise as a result of the engineer giving a damn.

Neeleman is committed to making the changes necessary and that’s an honorable thing. It also is a good thing for business, as these were most likely changes that would eventually have needed to be made anyway.

Which plays nicely into one of the themes that’s been floating around in my head lately: Everyone says as a company you have to always be on your toes and evolving, but that’s easier said than done. How do you create a culture that’s not afraid to cannibalize itself?

Every system needs a disaster of sorts in order to regenerate life. Forest fires can actually be good for the environment. The problem is it’s easier said than done. Most companies get comfortable in a field or offering a specific set of services and don’t constantly strive to redefine themselves. For some reason the first thing that comes to mind is high-school dramas: Every one thinks it’s going to succeed when the kids go to college but none ever do. That’s because the same formula no longer applies, but they continue to try and shove it in there.

Sometimes you’ve just got to rethink your business from the ground up. James Hong from HOTorNOT (sorry to quote him again) wrote a great piece about staying hungry. After making a lot of money with HOTorNOT he is looking to completely revamp it. He’s changed the corporate structure, take a serious paycut (down to $24 a year) and set up a stock option program to keep employees hungry. All of this is new, so there’s no way to say how it’ll turn out, but you have to respect him for trying (especially with the cash cow that is HOTorNOT)

I guess the bottom line in all of this is that if you don’t cannibalize your business, someone else will.

February 21, 2007