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  • Inflection Points: Consequences of the Road Not Taken

    What does a company do when their core value proposition becomes less than relevant – overnight? When macro-economic changes, like a pandemic, change absolutely everything – including all of the value you have built with your customer base? That’s the problem Starbucks was facing when its longstanding “Third Place” value proposition (A place to meet that is not home or work/school) became superfluous to a population so fearful of Covid-19 that they didn’t even patronize their usual second place. In the 8-K filed with the SEC last June – just two months after Covid began to rule our lives - we learned Starbucks’ plan. As a part of what they called “A Transformation of our Business,” Starbucks decided to introduce a new store format called “Starbucks Pickup” for to-go and delivery orders. "We believe this transformation of our store portfolio, blending Starbucks Pickup stores with traditional Starbucks stores in dense metropolitan markets, will elevate the customer experience and position Starbucks for long-term growth." Starbucks was so serious about this change that they closed 400 existing stores to make room for Starbucks Pickup. Wow. What happened to third place??? Well, the letter further explains that “the third place experience occurs from the moment a customer envisions” ordering a Starbucks beverage to “wherever they enjoy that Starbucks beverage.” So is third place now more symbolic than literal? Hmmm. It turns out this change was not as sudden as it seems. Starbucks had been concerned about a transformation in societal coffee consumption patterns long before Covid-19. Indeed, Starbucks had noticed that about 80% of all U.S. transactions before the pandemic were for to-go or delivery. In fact, Starbucks stated that the process of reevaluation and store redesign had been ongoing for two years prior to the outbreak. It was just because of COVID-19, that the company had decided to accelerate the change. So what can we learn from this? Businesses should confront inflection points immediately or face the consequences of staying the course, which could have been heavy for Starbucks given that the pandemic is still ongoing Strategy is an ongoing living process. Knowing when to the pull the trigger is equally as important A powerful value proposition, brilliantly executed, will pay enormous dividends in allowing a business to continually stay relevant, even when the value proposition needs to be changed Think about the tremendous, consistent and expensive effort Starbucks expended over so many years to establish and reinforce the “third place” value proposition. The success of that effort could have given the company false confidence that once the pandemic ended, consumers would return to their pre-existing patterns of consumption. We now know consumers haven’t and probably won’t. The result – a powerful brand that was unafraid to confront their own inflection point has now become even more efficient while improving the customer experience. Can your business do that?

  • Nobody is coming for you... It's YOUR Quadruple Bypass

    Disarm the naysayers and virus spreaders before they infect your growth! The doctor didn’t mince words, “You need a quadruple bypass,” he said to my client. You can argue that it was his diet, his anger issues, his marriage, his overworking, his lack of self-care, his company’s inflection point, or all of the above. If you were to videotape his behavior prior to the DIS-EASE that overtook his heart, you would probably zero in on the anger issues being the cause. He would yell at his staff for not walking fast enough, his wife for not calling sooner, get upset at the copier for not making copies quickly enough, and… well, you get the picture. Everyone annoyed him. His managers were afraid of him. He wanted to double his business, yet turnover was high, stress was high, and fear of failure caused more mistakes on the shop floor than ever before. He was at an Inflection Point, emotionally and professionally. The company’s organization, business processes and their technologies were all at the breaking point. The day I met with him, the first thing out of his mouth was “I don’t know why people don’t have common sense. Why can’t they act rationally? Why do I have to be the one to change when I am the only rational one?” “Well,” I said, “because you are the one that is in the hospital. YOU are the one with the quadruple bypass and they are not. It is YOUR DIS-EASE causing your disease. It is YOUR quadruple bypass.” I heard nothing but the stillness of his breath after that. I stayed with him, as we marinated in the quiet together until he finally said… “OK.” First thing we did was decide that we weren’t going to make this difficult and have a little fun. So, we started talking about how he came about labeling people and why he decided on those particular labels over others (stubborn v. head strong, weird vs. studious, jerk vs. unenlightened). Then we separated the person(s) from the behavior(s). We laughed as we talked about some of the shenanigans, he himself had gotten into and what people may be saying about him. He complained about how some people just “get your goat”. You just see them and your bilirubin skyrockets. I agreed and asked just how much artillery he had given them the right to destroy him with, if they wanted to, with their words and indirect actions. Silence. I asked if he would like to change that or continue to keep giving those “get-your-goaters” power over him. He wanted to disarm them. So, from that moment on, every time he was to encounter someone who made him feel sour, his “homework” was to thank them in his mind for showing him what NOT to be like and drop buckets and buckets of honey on them in his mind’s eye, watching them get all sticky and try to recover… all in his mind. This is to make them appear sweeter to him, but also to make him chuckle internally. We then moved on to who he needs on board in order to double his business and get to the next inflection point, who the toxic folks in his organization are, and who the flight risks are. Anyone who doesn’t abide by the culture designed (daily behaviors) will get three chances to turn it around or they are out. If anyone gossips about another or spreads the toxic virus, the modus operandi will be a nowhere to hide policy – they will be outed. We will also look at the teams and their level of trust, ability to disagree and commit, be accountable, and achieve results. If any of those areas need healing, they will be addressed. After working together on his own perceptions, judgments, and assumptions, my client, the largest naysayer of them all, disarmed himself and no longer has an arsenal of rockets or grenades to throw at other folks because he now recognizes that for every grenade he throws, there will be five coming back at him in the form of turnover, failure rates, stress, or worse, his own death. Today his company is well underway to their next inflection point because he had the courage to look in the mirror and disarm himself before he spread his toxic behavior further downstream. In Conclusion In order to disarm the naysayers, you must be willing to disarm yourself of the toxic artillery in YOUR mind, put your mental weapons down, and shift the way you look at them, interact with them, and deal with them. Take THEIR power away by changing the way YOU see them, visualize them, speak to them, and label them. YOU are the one that must change because it is YOU that gets the dis-ease. The quadruple bypass. The aneurism. Choose NOT to die on that hill. YOU have the next inflection point to get to! When you grow, it is uncomfortable and it can sometimes create “Lions” roaring in the workplace, making it challenging for everyone else to get things done. If your company is going through a growth spurt or has been hammered by the economy and everyone needs to get aligned before they get on the train to the next inflection point, the next level of success, give us a call at (951) 888-5857, visit our website or drop us a line at At Inflection Masters, our Team of 5 experts will make sure you are well equipped for success in all areas of Growth, Strategy, Finance, M&A, Sales, Marketing, and, you got it, Talent! That is the principal behind Inflection Masters! We remove the barriers to growth so companies can break through their inflection point. About the Author Carol Marzouk is the founder and CEO of Leadership ‘N’ Soul, and one of the Inflection Masters ™ experts. Known as the Executive Lion Tamer®, for her three decades of leadership work with those who some consider to be the “toughest” C-level executives, attorneys, and surgeons, she has been called a behavior strategist and communication transformation magician by her clients in all industries, from small businesses to well-known conglomerates.

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