Charlie Dawson on purpose and customer-led success

If you give customers freedom, do you lose money?

What about those companies that make money but let customers down? That are miserable to work for. Make a mess of the environment. Exploit workers in distant places...

How and why does that happen?

And more importantly, how can a company avoid that happening in the future?

As Charlie Dawson, Founder and Partner of The Foundation says during this chat, purpose plays a big part in all of this.

But what is purpose? What does it really mean? Why is it important? And does it ‘pay’?

We’ll also talk about the importance of perceiving the world differently, and looking at the world from the outside in. And why this is also so important.

If you work for a company. Or own a company. I highly recommend you listen to this episode.

Charlie has been doing this since 1999.

He gives us some fantastic examples of who is doing all of this well. And who isn’t.

Who did it well. And then stopped.

And how to avoid all of these challenges.

So throw on those running shoes or grab your favorite drink, and get stuck in. This is a great chat that will certainly get you thinking!

To learn more about Charlie and The Foundation, you can find more about them here: https://www.the-foundation.com/

To get a copy of Charlie’s book, you can find it here.

And if anyone listening wants to come to Forums, which we mention on the podcast, then you should just drop Katharyn a note saying you come from TIE and you’d love to be on the list. They are amazing and definitely worth joining. She’s on knatynczuk@the-foundation.com.

00:00:07:19 – 00:00:29:13
Philippa White
So the questions are these. How can we really activate the best of the private sector to meet the challenges of the real world? Is there a way to accelerate my career that doesn’t involve boring online or classroom courses? And can I really impact people in the developing world with the skills that I have? Can I finally feel proud of what I know?

00:00:30:04 – 00:01:01:00
Philippa White
Those are the questions. And this podcast will give you the answers. My name is Philippa White and this is TIE Unearthed. Keep listening and you can follow us on our journey as we show you how we’re connecting the private sector with the social sector. To make change. Hello everyone. Philippa Whyte here and welcome to Episode 18 of TIE’s Podcast.

00:01:01:01 – 00:01:21:23
Philippa White
Now today I’m chatting with Charlie Dawson, who’s the founder and partner of the foundation, a proudly independent management consultancy helping organizations achieve customer led success. Now, as Charlie says, that’s easy to say, but hard to do. Hi, Charlie.

00:01:22:01 – 00:01:22:15
Charlie Dawson
Hello.

00:01:22:23 – 00:01:45:18
Philippa White
Hello. Now, before I go any further, I just love to tell people a little bit more about you. So Charlie got a degree in manufacturing engineering. But while his contemporaries joined management consult since he went into advertising first was such in Saatchi and then a young start up called Duckworth, Finn, Grub, Water or Pond Life to its friends.

00:01:46:24 – 00:02:13:19
Philippa White
Now, while there, he led the advertising part of an innovative new car company launch in the UK. Now the strange thing was the innovation sounds obvious. They did what customers wanted, but the industry resisted. They offered better service. He realized he wanted to do this kind of thing, not advertising. And so established the foundation in 1999. So he’s been doing this for a while, which is amazing.

00:02:13:24 – 00:02:26:17
Philippa White
To help organizations succeed by being customer not financially led. I found I just find this fascinating. So, Charlie, in your words, please, can you tell us more about the foundation?

00:02:26:21 – 00:02:46:10
Charlie Dawson
Yeah. So thank you for the intro. Really helpful. So, yes, I was I was working in advertising and it felt like in advertising we were we were good at doing some some things, some particular things. We were really good understanding customers and we were really good at making promises to customers, but we weren’t able to change what a business actually did.

00:02:46:18 – 00:03:09:01
Charlie Dawson
So we often knew that customers wanted stuff that we couldn’t really promise and, and the company launched that you just described was, I suppose, the first example to me that it didn’t have to be that way. So in that case, the targets were really big and we had to be really bold. And and so when we sort of looked at customers and we understood how they saw things.

00:03:09:07 – 00:03:22:14
Charlie Dawson
One of the things that was obvious was that they really didn’t like car dealers. They really didn’t like the way they were treated. And so I guess the most obvious thing in the world was to do something about it and have better service in response. But then the challenge is, how do you do that? How do you actually construct a business that’s capable of doing that?

00:03:23:22 – 00:03:52:22
Charlie Dawson
And so the management team built this whole idea around not having franchised dealers and having their own big sales outlets and having staff that were noncommissioned. And so on. And it was really successful. So yeah, I wanted it. I wanted to do it again and and it all seemed so obvious. And I guess it seems to me that to do it again, you’d probably need a team that both understood customers like we did in advertising, but also had people in it that understood business, which to be honest, we didn’t really in advertising, but most of the people in managed consulting seemed to do that.

00:03:54:04 – 00:04:13:18
Charlie Dawson
So thought about doing a joint venture between the agency and managed consultancy, realized the culture was so different. Actually, that would never work. And so yeah, I set up the foundation to try and answer this quiz question and bring these worlds together. So, yes, we’re here, as you say, we’re here to help organizations succeed in a very particular way.

00:04:14:00 – 00:04:34:01
Charlie Dawson
So making things better for customers and then also making it work for the organization. But in that order and I guess we believe, you know, the purpose of any organization is to serve customers in a way that’s valued. And then all of the other people that are involved help do that and share in the value created. But only customers actually create that value, and they only do that if the business does something of value to them.

00:04:34:22 – 00:04:50:05
Charlie Dawson
As I say, it all seems so completely obvious, but and yet it seems to be also really hard to do in reality. And we’ll come on and talk about why and what we’ve learned about making it easier and a bit. But I guess I should also make it clear that we do this with all sorts of organizations, all sorts of shapes and sizes.

00:04:50:05 – 00:05:07:15
Charlie Dawson
So yeah, big ones like HSBC and Jaguar, Land Rover, Morrisons or eBay, but also smaller ones like an 850 person legal firm called BMC or AJAX Airports that runs regional airports across the UK or ingenuity as a charity growing skills in engineering in this country.

00:05:08:01 – 00:05:27:01
Philippa White
So, I mean, what I because I know that you’ve got some case studies up your sleeve and I feel like maybe now’s a good time to bring it to light because all of this, like you say, sounds so obvious, but hardly anyone does it. So why? You know, there’s obviously the purpose piece and we can get into that.

00:05:27:01 – 00:05:39:14
Philippa White
But maybe just very quickly, just a couple of examples, just even of one of these companies that you just talked about just to kind of put this in to so that people can understand what. So what do you do? How does it work?

00:05:39:15 – 00:06:01:14
Charlie Dawson
So, so, so I guess so. I’ll give you a quick I try to give you a quick example of something, maybe Volkswagen a few years ago. So Volkswagen wanted to retain more customers. And at the beginning of the project to the end, who was it was a pretty gruff Northern Irish guy wanted of the answer to be having a magazine, I think a Volkswagen magazine, because that’s why can’t companies have magazines, isn’t it, to just grow loyalty?

00:06:02:07 – 00:06:34:22
Charlie Dawson
And I only have one and Landrover had one and so on. What’s what we’ve learned in our work is really important, is that we have to get senior people to meet customers and to listen to stories outside their own realm from people that have worked in other sectors in person. It’s only when senior people do things in person and kind of interact with people as human beings that they they recognize, I guess, inconvenient truths and get the energy to change things.

00:06:35:06 – 00:06:50:13
Charlie Dawson
So in this in this case, the one of the things we did with the Volkswagen aimed to talk to a customer, just one customer. And the customer was really angry about the cost of servicing. I remember saying to him, you know, did you ask about the magazine? You quoted? Of course he didn’t ask about the magazine. The customer would have been even more angry.

00:06:51:06 – 00:07:10:08
Charlie Dawson
Why did the customer want a magazine about Volkswagen’s? You know, it’s obvious when you’re back in the real world, but. But not when you’re sitting at your desk in your office, you know, surrounded by Volkswagens and people to sell votes on. And what he knew was that when people got their car service in in dealers that weren’t Volkswagen ones, they were much less likely to say.

00:07:10:08 – 00:07:32:19
Charlie Dawson
So the customer was telling them, telling him why, why they left. One of the other conversations we set up for them was was with Rolls-Royce aero engines. So this is we call this a parallel. And I listen to the story of Rolls-Royce aero engines introducing something called power by the AMA. So so Rolls-Royce stopped selling jet engines and started selling jet engine time, effectively thrust.

00:07:34:08 – 00:07:49:18
Charlie Dawson
And then then Rolls-Royce became very worried about preventative maintenance and so on, because when the engines stop working, they stop getting paid. And so Volkswagen listened to that story and listened to what it took to do that. And so afterwards you could say, okay, so what is that person came here? What would they do? And the answer is they do power by the alpha cars.

00:07:49:18 – 00:08:06:11
Charlie Dawson
And the Volkswagen people were saying that and they’d actually started working out how you could do that. And in fact, part of the answer this project was they just made that smaller in a sense, and they applied it to servicing and introduced a service plan, which was when you buy the car, you can then buy three year servicing at a massive discount.

00:08:07:06 – 00:08:23:17
Charlie Dawson
And as a result, as a customer, you’re delighted. And what’s more, now the servicing is free effectively. I mean, you paid for it already, so you go back willingly and and and happily on the set of all of them. What they did is they made a business case where they lost some money on servicing, but they gained on new car things.

00:08:24:02 – 00:08:35:22
Charlie Dawson
And that was going to as an outside in business case, you’ve never known. You make that trade. Of course. I’m sorry. No, these are in competition. But when you look for where the customer stands, you realize it’s all connected and it’s all about the same relationship.

00:08:35:22 – 00:09:00:12
Philippa White
Fascinating. And it’s so interesting as well, because they basically we’re doing the same thing. They just repackaged it and it actually repackaged it in a way that changed the perception, but also the happiness of the customer. But it was only through those insights that they were able to do that. Really interesting. And I guess, I mean, because a lot of this now because I know a lot of what you do goes into the purpose area.

00:09:00:12 – 00:09:23:19
Philippa White
And as you know, we were talking about it earlier, but you know, so much of what I hear through our work are people looking for ways that they can somehow bridge purpose and profit through their work. You know, they’re aware that they work in a place. Yes, profit is important, but purpose is so important. They need to believe where they where they’re working, where they’re sort of giving their time and their skills.

00:09:24:20 – 00:09:46:13
Philippa White
And it’s something that’s come up a lot in the work that we do. And we met and just sort of for our listeners so that they understand the back story as to where we met. It was via a mutual friend, Judy Lannan, who has since passed, and I was looking for a person to chair our ten year anniversary event at the Royal Society of the Arts, and this was in 2017.

00:09:46:13 – 00:10:05:22
Philippa White
Now, gosh, and it was called the big TIE debate does purpose pay and even, you know, over the years, you know, there’s sort of been that debate, isn’t it? Sort of och sustainability. It’s not really our focus right now or, you know, corporate social responsibility sort of tended to be a thing that we have we have people in the in that department.

00:10:05:22 – 00:10:20:14
Philippa White
You know, they’re thinking of the things that we need to do. But it’s sort of it keeps kind of it sort of keeps coming back. It keeps coming back and the big question is, okay, but hold on. Maybe maybe this is something we should do. It’s not kind of a oh, I guess we kind of have to do it because we have to look like we’re doing something good.

00:10:20:20 – 00:10:43:14
Philippa White
It’s does it actually pay? Does it actually benefit? And and when I was talking to Judi, she told me, I know just the person for you. And so that was you and and on the you know, at the event, we had a handful of people talk and I just remember, you know, the sold out standing room. Only so many people wanted to hear what you had to say and what the others had to say and your reflections on the day.

00:10:43:14 – 00:11:05:07
Philippa White
I just I remember getting goosebumps and thinking, God, you know. Exactly. And so I just I know the people who will be listening to this because I will be sharing it around a lot of channels of where people just they want to understand this better because, you know, they want to find places to work that do this, but also they want to be drivers of drivers of change within the companies that they work.

00:11:06:21 – 00:11:18:21
Philippa White
And I just I just feel like now purpose is more important than ever. And I just love your thoughts or comments on this. You know what? Why does what this purpose mean? I guess, first of all and why is it important to companies?

00:11:19:10 – 00:11:50:08
Charlie Dawson
Yeah, yeah. Great, great questions. So first of all, so, so, first of all, all companies, all companies, all organizations have an assumed purpose. And the assumption people have about why they’re working every day is usually unspoken. And and usually it’s money making more money making the company bigger. I mean, essentially sort of self-interested, starting with with the company and and its financial performance and trying to do more of that.

00:11:51:14 – 00:12:21:18
Charlie Dawson
And I guess I guess what’s happened over the last decade or so is that we’ve started to realize we’ve sort of created monsters in society. So companies that make money but let customers down on these people to work for make a mess of the environment, exploit workers in distant places and so on, and I guess the question that’s been asked with with growing confidence is why have we as people created organizations that are supposed to make life better but somehow make life worse for most you know, for most of the people involved.

00:12:22:08 – 00:12:45:12
Charlie Dawson
So I think this has led to the purpose question, if we want to call it that, becoming quite sort of fashionable. And I guess as with anything like this, some of the enthusiasm has been a bit a bit shallow, I think. And and and the shallow version, I think assumes that the purpose of business is making money, but it tries to add to the idea of a social purpose on the side, if you like.

00:12:45:18 – 00:13:02:22
Charlie Dawson
So, so sort of making money and making a bit less of a mess. And and I think, you know, and I’ve heard people say things like, you know, purpose, having a purpose is great because you make more money when you do, you know, purpose drives profit. And it’s like, no, no, that that the assumption there is that the purpose is still money.

00:13:03:13 – 00:13:28:09
Charlie Dawson
And you’re using you using the phrase or the idea of purpose as a means to that end. And so I think the question is about purpose, a very simple, essential, why is this organization here in the world? And as I said earlier, our assumption at the foundation, my assumption is that organizations are here first to serve customers wanted, you know, to serve to make their lives and the lives of those around them better in some way.

00:13:28:09 – 00:13:50:10
Charlie Dawson
And I’m saying customers just to just a point in a particular direction, I mean I mean, it’s people. But I mean, the people that the company is aiming to help, you know, with an exchange of value, you know, and they’re the users of these sort of services. Yeah. And it can be really hard to say this in a lot of organizations because it goes against convention, it goes against self-interest.

00:13:51:11 – 00:14:14:13
Charlie Dawson
And unfortunately that’s the natural way of things. And it’s harder to start with being interested in others. So so for people across the organization to change from believing in money to believing it’s here for people their unspoken share, please have to change. And that’s really hard. And that only comes from decisions and action that are taken at the organization, not from words.

00:14:14:21 – 00:14:29:18
Charlie Dawson
So all of this work to create brilliant purpose statements that get put up on a website or wall doesn’t change anything, doesn’t certainly change people’s shared beliefs. It’s only when things start happening that that that becomes the case. So yeah, I can give you a couple of examples if you like better.

00:14:29:20 – 00:14:31:00
Philippa White
Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

00:14:31:13 – 00:14:49:12
Charlie Dawson
So, so, so I mean, so, so Paul Polman is often talked about with this and he did a brilliant job on his first day at Unilever, he announced that he was going to get rid of quarterly reporting to the markets. And as he described, he thought he was least likely to be fired on his first day. So he’d try saying it on his first day.

00:14:49:12 – 00:15:13:18
Charlie Dawson
And he went and indeed, he wasn’t fired. And that was that was a great symbolic decision to stop doing something that that letter that showed you were motivated by money and allowed you to focus on something else instead. Another example. So I’m very fond of easyJet and what they have done since 2010, when Carolyn McCall was chief exec for seven years.

00:15:14:20 – 00:15:34:23
Charlie Dawson
And one of the things they did was they they decided they stated that their purpose is to make travel easy and affordable for their customers. And I quite like that idea because it’s very plain and simple. And what they recognized was the discount air travel industry was affordable, but it was anything but easy for for customers. And so they set out to change it.

00:15:34:23 – 00:15:51:20
Charlie Dawson
And actually one of the things they did was was relook at allocated seating and, you know, the scrum, you know, because there wasn’t allocated seating, it’s a scrum to get on the planes. They decided, are we going to do something about that? It took them 18 months to work out how to because they had to do it and get the planes to sit around in 25 minutes still.

00:15:52:00 – 00:16:07:13
Charlie Dawson
So they were still affordable, but eventually they did it. Eventually they worked out how to do that. And then everyone in easyJet, because at that point believe they were serious about what they said the purpose was, and they went on to do a whole series, more things in that vein. But that’s the sort of thing I’m talking about.

00:16:07:13 – 00:16:14:07
Charlie Dawson
It’s it’s simple, but it’s far from easy. And that’s what changes beliefs.

00:16:14:07 – 00:16:35:08
Philippa White
And it’s so funny. I mean, I just, I just have to throw this example in because I’ve literally just gone through it and it just goes to show how this is not the way to do it. And if people did things differently, how they could just gain market share. So the the Brazilian, I guess it’s like a cable company called Sky.

00:16:35:09 – 00:16:53:09
Philippa White
I don’t know. Do you have Sky? I think skies maybe all over the world anyway. Sky here in Brazil and I anyway, I decided I just, I don’t watch enough TV and I just, I couldn’t justify, I just wanted to cancel it. So I called them up and I had to press through a number of buttons, first of all, which took forever.

00:16:53:09 – 00:17:07:02
Philippa White
So it’s sort of a blow. Then the final one is, if you want to cancel, call this. So then you’re on, you’re on hold forever. Then finally you get somebody and you say you want to cancel. So then she’s of course, wanting to sell you a cheaper package. And I said, No, no, no. I genuinely don’t even want the cheaper package.

00:17:07:02 – 00:17:27:21
Philippa White
I just want to cancel it. And she said, No, no, no, I have to put you through to somebody else. They can talk to you about the cheaper package. And so anyway, this long drawn out thing that I’m obviously having to do all in Portuguese, which after 15 years here, I should be able to do this. But to be honest, it was getting so complicated that I had to put it over to the other person who works with me to help explain to this person I just wanted to cancel.

00:17:28:07 – 00:17:49:17
Philippa White
So then we actually had to go this far. This took half an hour and she kept saying, No, no, actually I can’t cancel right now. You have to call back in sort of two weeks. And because then obviously there are so many people who wouldn’t go through that rigmarole and so they just have people as forced customers. And I thought, this is crazy because they obviously are trained to do that.

00:17:49:22 – 00:18:09:02
Philippa White
And then it was only when Julie said, I need your name and I need to know that this is being recorded. Just confirm what I want the protocol number. And as soon as she did that, then she said, okay, okay, fine, I will cancel your thing. But this was sort of knowing the law, knowing our rights and wasting probably half an hour of our time, 45 minutes, and that’s it.

00:18:09:03 – 00:18:41:20
Philippa White
If you think of an older person or you think of someone who doesn’t have the time or the desire to sort of fight for that. So they just have they just force people to be their customers. And it just obviously makes me hate Sky and and it just sort of thing. And it’s not just guys like the phone company does that all it does that it’s just it’s it’s so old school and then you think if you change that and you actually become like first direct which you know, amazing company, they answer the phone in one minute or not even one ring still, after I signed up over long ago, there’s always somebody to help

00:18:41:22 – 00:18:47:22
Philippa White
sort things out immediately. And you think that’s what it comes down to. And then people I will tell everybody to use first direct.

00:18:47:24 – 00:19:03:24
Charlie Dawson
But let’s look at what’s going on there. So, I mean, first of all, you can imagine how miserable it must be doing that job at Sky as well, because those people exactly. Those people now know exactly what they’re being asked to do. And it will be going against all of their instincts and they’ll go home and they won’t feel great about what they’re doing.

00:19:04:07 – 00:19:28:23
Charlie Dawson
But the beliefs, the beliefs, the sky, examples that you’re talking about, the belief is that if you give customers freedom, that you’d lose money. And and I guess that’s exactly what I’m talking about reversing. And it’s exactly why it’s hard to reverse it. So so a customer led version of that that had, you know, if the organization really believed its purpose was to make life better for customers in some way, then they’d be trying to help you.

00:19:29:07 – 00:19:53:07
Charlie Dawson
And, and they, they’d have contracts that were, you know, free and easy to adjust. And they’d have the confidence that if they did a great job, that people would find a level and find a level of service and so on. And that and that the exchange, the value exchange, which in the end take care of itself, but taking that lead, letting go of the of the apparent control and trusting that that’s the way it’s going to operate is hugely difficult.

00:19:53:08 – 00:20:16:00
Charlie Dawson
And that’s what I was talking about, about going against convention. And that’s what that’s why this sort of thing is so hard. That’s why a purpose that is genuine in other people’s interest is so hard to establish in a way that everyone believes in it. And it’s why this sort of customer led challenge is so is so tricky because as you say, it seems so obvious from a customer’s point of view that it’d be better and you’d like them and you talk about them positively and so on.

00:20:16:08 – 00:20:20:01
Charlie Dawson
But you have to let go as the company and you have to trust and you have to have.

00:20:20:13 – 00:20:40:23
Philippa White
If they trust what you’re offering, you have to trust that your offer is good and you can’t, like force people to do what you want them to do. And then if it’s not working, that yeah, but like you say it’s easier. And actually, I mean that brings me to one of my next question is actually because it’s, it comes down to your whole thing, which is looking from the outside in.

00:20:40:23 – 00:21:01:11
Philippa White
And just to give a bit of background as well as to where I started to really understand what you talk about in 2018, you invited me to speak at one of your foundation forum events, which to all of our listeners, you guys need to follow these because I mean, obviously now I things are happening virtually of course, but once things open up again, you need to go because they’re amazing.

00:21:01:11 – 00:21:25:23
Philippa White
Everyone adores them. And I was I felt very honored because you very kindly asked me to be on the panel with a couple of other fascinating people. And the topic was perceiving the world differently and how to make it useful. And you introduce the event talking about how truth is at the heart of the perception challenge. And you had three of us explain why our perceptions can betray us.

00:21:25:23 – 00:21:47:24
Philippa White
And you said we love our own truths and we believe them deeply. And then you went on to say how there are many more ways in which our perceptions of the world are affected by influences we may not actually be aware of. And we we can find ourselves being trapped in convention and familiar by forces we just can’t see.

00:21:47:24 – 00:22:04:04
Philippa White
And then we obviously had the conversation with various different people. But I just I think that’s fascinating. I also talk a lot about that because it’s only when you step out of your bubble that you start to see things in a different way, which is obviously what ties all about and actually just is a really quick example of that.

00:22:04:04 – 00:22:31:16
Philippa White
I remember in 2000 when we were talking about the computer crash and we were talking about, you know, Nostradamus was expecting the end of the world. And, you know, there was a lot of anxiety around what is going to happen when this clock strikes 12 and it’s the year 2000. And then shortly afterwards, I went to Bangkok and I asked all of I went to university there and I was finishing my degree and I, I asked everybody, what do you, you know, what was the vibe around the year 2000?

00:22:31:16 – 00:22:35:22
Philippa White
And they looked at me and they’re like, What are you talking about? It’s the year 2543.

00:22:36:00 – 00:22:36:13
Charlie Dawson
Brilliant.

00:22:36:15 – 00:22:50:09
Philippa White
You know? And I’m like, What are you talking about? You know, we don’t all use the same calendar and it’s just so funny. So, you know, can you talk a little bit more about the importance of perceiving the world differently and why this is so important in the work that you do with the foundation?

00:22:50:17 – 00:23:10:20
Charlie Dawson
Yeah. Yeah. And it overlaps a little bit with the story that I was telling about the Volkswagen. And so so I guess this question is about belief again in a particular way. So I guess, I guess, first of all, so you perceive you perceive the world most naturally from where you stand, you know, with you at the center and with all the things that you’re used to around you.

00:23:12:08 – 00:23:30:17
Charlie Dawson
And I guess, I guess, as I’ve sort of described a bit, I mean, I work depends on helping believe in what we call outside in perspectives. So as you naturally see the world from the inside out from where you stand looking outwards, what we’re trying to do is also help people look from the outside in. And as I described there, there’s sort of two kinds that matter.

00:23:31:18 – 00:23:48:16
Charlie Dawson
They’re the perspectives, the people that you serve. So you’re sort of customers and the people you are trying to help. And there are perspectives of people that have done things differently that can give you ideas about ways that you can invent things that customers might not be able to invent for themselves, but they’ll be there’ll be better answers.

00:23:49:05 – 00:24:18:19
Charlie Dawson
And what we’ve learned in both of these cases is that it’s not enough to just get information about these perspectives, because you you kind of view it through the filter of your own lens. So it becomes interpretive just as the way that you see it and you frankly ignore the stuff that’s inconvenient or that doesn’t fit and concentrate on the things that that reinforce and so that’s why that’s why we sort of invented this immersion idea about getting people to to connect with other human beings.

00:24:19:02 – 00:24:35:14
Charlie Dawson
And I guess to begin with, it was sort of almost instinctive that it felt like surely that would have some kind of a different effect. And a bit later, I read a bit more about this that that helped explain it and, and as the so-called Fiction of Capra, you had a book called The Wave of Life. And he explained a couple of things.

00:24:35:14 – 00:24:58:01
Charlie Dawson
He said, As humans, we very good at abstraction. So so the color red doesn’t necessarily mean stuff inherently, but we’ve learned in most of the sort of, you know, the developed world that, you know, the traffic light that says red, that means stop. But there’s no real reason why that’s university. True. And we forget. And we said, but we can forget that things are abstracted.

00:24:58:01 – 00:25:24:13
Charlie Dawson
So when you’re listening to a market research debrief, you know, being driven by PowerPoint telling, telling a senior team what customers think actually is abstract. It actually is just information. It’s only it’s only the market research that actually out the conversations. Everyone else is listening to information and then the book made another point, which was that when we are out there in the world and dealing with the people, we sense with not just our nervous system, but our whole hormonal system as well.

00:25:24:13 – 00:25:43:08
Charlie Dawson
And that often works very powerfully and very quickly and instinctively. And and so we and we and we get a sense of where people are coming from and we trust it because we have all sorts of other internal going on. And so I guess when we when we’re doing immersion, what we’re doing is we’re putting back that kind of connection.

00:25:43:08 – 00:26:15:03
Charlie Dawson
We sort of allowing people to, to really to really understand another human being and where they’re coming from, or at least in a much fuller way. And and as a result, you believe it. And as a result, you’re much more likely to act on what you learn, even if it is convenient, because you now know that it’s sort of true and it’s what I absolutely love about about time, because time is absolutely about people immersing themselves in someone else’s world and then a challenge they’ve got and people really investing themselves in helping find a good answer.

00:26:15:03 – 00:26:16:08
Charlie Dawson
And you learn stuff from that.

00:26:16:15 – 00:26:36:18
Philippa White
Yeah, totally. It’s funny we in to thank you with time actually when we’re doing the trading is a quote from a neeson in it, which is we see the world as we are, not as it is. Right or something along those lines. But it’s true, right? Like we eat and then it’s it’s so important to. Okay, how good what, what questions can I ask?

00:26:36:18 – 00:26:59:09
Philippa White
And then what? I need to really probably listen to the answers because you just like you say, you listen to things and you see things through your lens. And if someone has a completely different background or or view of the world, then what they’re saying to you might not be what you’re hearing. And yeah, we definitely try very hard to try and get people to unpick that because that’s where you find those nuggets of really important information.

00:27:00:05 – 00:27:24:12
Philippa White
So now every time I go to the UK we meet up, which obviously now hasn’t been for over a year and we talk about, you know, the various things that we’re up to. But you do talk about your book and I know that it’s it’s probably almost finished, but I think the plan is for it to be launched at the end of this year or something like that.

00:27:24:12 – 00:27:34:06
Philippa White
So anyway, I just love you to be able to talk about the premise of it and what can people expect and and let people know about it. Because I would like our listeners, when it does come out to be aware of it and to look out for it.

00:27:34:10 – 00:28:01:14
Charlie Dawson
So yeah, very funny. Yeah. So, so it’s seven, seven years so far in the production, but it is coming out in May this year. Okay, great. Yeah. So yeah, it’s, it’s almost almost here. It’s called the customer Copernicus. So Copernicus was the person who realized that, that we are on this planet. We on this planet are not the center of the solar system with everything going around us is it’s the sun that’s at the central solar system.

00:28:01:14 – 00:28:19:04
Charlie Dawson
And we are just one of many planets going, going round it. And so, so it is with customers. You know, that’s the central argument that we’ve been trying to make customers an organization. So organizations usually assume they’re at the center of everything. And what they need to realize is, is that customers are the ones that have the power.

00:28:19:04 – 00:28:38:08
Charlie Dawson
They’re the ones that decide, you know, to do things with you or not do things with you. And you are just one of many, many other, you know, peripheral organizations orbiting around customers, you know, of no great interest to them. And that’s a much more healthy way round to see things. And what we’re doing in the book is we, we set about trying to answer a question.

00:28:39:13 – 00:29:01:24
Charlie Dawson
So, so what we observed is that sometimes companies do become huge customer led successes. I guess Amazon is one. So I know they’ve got some issues with, with what it’s like to work for Amazon and and they are proper issues. And if they don’t sell them out, then they’re not going to last forever. But they’ve certainly done an amazing job for customers in making things easier that they appreciate.

00:29:02:14 – 00:29:26:11
Charlie Dawson
Tesco, at their best, were absolutely one of these. easyJet, who I mentioned Lego have had long periods of being fantastic at inventing things that customers love. People like Zalando in Europe, fashion retailer, DBS Bank in Singapore. So when you look at all these companies, what they do is what they do is make things better for customers, but they’re also hugely successful commercially.

00:29:26:21 – 00:29:47:19
Charlie Dawson
And when you look at what they do for customers, it does seem quite obvious. I mean, so Amazon is just giving people more choice at low prices with fast delivery and that’s not rocket science. You know, we’ve kind of always known that that’s what matters. So so in the book, we’re trying to find out why is something that so a attractive and so obvious, so rare.

00:29:48:12 – 00:30:12:11
Charlie Dawson
And actually we then also had to answer a second question, which I suspect some people listening would have spotted already, which is why do they stop? Because Tesco most definitely stopped. And I think easyJet are probably in the process of stopping and certainly Lego have had periods of stopping and restarting again. And I won’t just go with now the whole book, but the essence of the answer you might be surprised to hear is that belief really matters.

00:30:13:01 – 00:30:34:16
Charlie Dawson
So the shared beliefs in the business about what success is and how success is achieved and I say this shared success about what success is is another way of saying purpose. What’s the purpose of the business? So yeah, most businesses are self-interested and and so ideas to make life better for customers will only be pursued if in advance is really obvious that they’re going to make money.

00:30:35:08 – 00:30:56:14
Charlie Dawson
And most customer innovations are like that. So it takes quite a special set of conditions and people to take the leap and to keep on taking similar leaps. And they do it because they believe both that their purpose is to do this. That is actually why they’re here and so that they’re pursuing that and also that they believe that when they do it, they’re going to make enough money for it all to be sustained.

00:30:57:08 – 00:31:12:09
Charlie Dawson
And and yes, and it’s quite it’s quite difficult to get that state to be the case. And you have to work at it quite deliberately to to stay like that. You know, it’s almost gravity of self-interest that pulls you back to, you know, to that being the natural way.

00:31:12:12 – 00:31:30:12
Philippa White
So just because this is not I mean, I obviously know Tesco because I used to live in the UK and I go back and forth to UK. But when you say they stopped, what, what, what did they just. I’d love an example just for people maybe who don’t even know Tesco. So what would be in what way did they do it?

00:31:30:12 – 00:31:39:22
Philippa White
And then they stopped. So they, they were customer led and then they stopped being in. Is that felt to people outside of the marketing world.

00:31:40:07 – 00:32:00:06
Charlie Dawson
Yeah. So, so, so Tesco grew, they were originally a sort of a sort of quiet trading kind of business, you know, quite a sort of, you know, it was sort of quite a low grade sort of retailer, a grocery supermarket. And they they grew and grew and they grew along way by copying a much more established competitor. Sainsbury’s.

00:32:01:00 – 00:32:25:01
Charlie Dawson
Yeah. And they, and they broadly caught them up but they couldn’t work out how to, how to get ahead and they certainly couldn’t get ahead by copying them. And they had some individuals in particular individuals in the organization that were quite customer orientated and at this point in the history they did some, they did some research and they learned that customers broadly liked the products and the prices that supermarkets had, but they didn’t like the experience of shopping at them.

00:32:26:04 – 00:32:49:14
Charlie Dawson
And one of the things they most disliked was queuing. And so they developed as Tesco developed this idea about, okay, what if we do, what if we have these initiatives to, to get queuing down the one in from queuing price. So the problem with idea is so, so obviously customers will enjoy shorter queues. The cost was going to be £60 million a year in 1994 and the question is, what benefit would you get?

00:32:49:14 – 00:33:05:02
Charlie Dawson
What financial benefit would you get as Tesco? Would people come more often? Would they spend more per visit or would they just kind of be pleased? The kids were shorter and spending money and so the problem was they couldn’t really find out in advance because they were trying to get ahead of Sainsbury’s. So if you if you pilot it, you would show Sainsbury’s what you’re going to do.

00:33:05:16 – 00:33:24:18
Charlie Dawson
So, so you need belief or conviction to, to take that stare. They got it basically from, from their determination to get, they had a Sainsbury’s so they thought it was worth a go and when they tried it they found that customers did indeed spend more with them and so it did pay for itself, but customers really appreciated the initiative.

00:33:24:18 – 00:33:43:14
Charlie Dawson
So the second thing, a bit like that, which was backpacking that the offer of 50 to £50 million a year and then a third thing and then the fourth thing and you can see that as that as they kept doing things that made the experience of shopping better, more customers, word got around, more customers enjoyed it, more customers came to Tesco and they became this tremendous success over time.

00:33:43:14 – 00:34:04:24
Charlie Dawson
They found lots of other ways to to grow benefits customers. They opened formats that were easiest to do, convenient shopping as well as big shops. They went to online shopping very, very early. They introduced a Clubcard that was a loyalty card, but actually way for them to learn about customers. So they worked. They were a massive success. They went from third in the UK to third in the world as a retailer.

00:34:04:24 – 00:34:07:00
Philippa White
Wow, God. And then.

00:34:07:00 – 00:34:37:23
Charlie Dawson
And then. And then the wheels fell off. So? So all the time. No matter how successful you are, competitors arrive doing, you know, potentially solving some of the customer problems that you’re solving in better ways the new model can. And one of the things I mean, this is simplifying quite a lot, but one of the things that happened is in the UK, the German discounters started getting some real traction and they had a very particular format that’s quite small and it doesn’t have any brands that you’ve heard of and so on.

00:34:38:07 – 00:35:06:08
Charlie Dawson
And, and some in Tesco thought that they might need to do something a bit like that to defend against them. But unfortunately by then the company had become so successful that the people at the top of become rather distant from the reality of what was going on and and essentially they resisted. They didn’t they didn’t do that. And consequently, the next year, it was a little bit harder to hit the numbers because you quoted on the city because your share price matters.

00:35:07:02 – 00:35:22:04
Charlie Dawson
You know, you do some things, you get some money from suppliers to do some particular promotions, and that helps close the gap on the numbers. And then the next year, it’s a bit harder because the discounters are doing even better. And so you press a bit harder and you get money, some other ways to close the gap. And the next year it’s harder still.

00:35:22:23 – 00:35:42:24
Charlie Dawson
And before you know it, you’re you’re basically being driven by trying to hit numbers and you’re doing whatever it takes to hit numbers. And frankly, you in the end, cheating and Tesco ended up in court, you know, in the original chief executive down, the person replaced and got fired. They ended up in court cases because they were, you know, there was fraud, you know, alleged.

00:35:44:01 – 00:36:06:04
Charlie Dawson
And so and because they’d become inside out again. And it wasn’t because anyone set out to undermine what they were doing or to cheat, to deliberately change direction. It was just, you know, like the front being bored little by little because they because they they missed the opportunity to proactively stay really good at what they were doing. They then started just finding it harder.

00:36:06:12 – 00:36:17:05
Charlie Dawson
And then again, the natural way to, you know, when you’re under pressure and the numbers are the thing you’re looking at, the natural instinct is to close the gap by doing the sort of things they did. And and so failure. Failure followed.

00:36:17:19 – 00:36:42:18
Philippa White
Yeah. And just just what? Because obviously we’re getting to that sort of the end of this. And I do want to ask you one more question, but just what I would love in sort of a I don’t know if it’s in a quick way, but in a way for our listeners and who are possibly running companies or involved with, you know, divisions of their companies to try and ensure this doesn’t happen or, you know, those success stories that keep managing to do it.

00:36:43:01 – 00:36:55:16
Philippa White
I mean, is it is it it’s I mean, I’m obviously completely simplifying this, but is it simply regularly having conversations with your customers? Is that sort of that’s what you should do right? I mean, what how does this not happen?

00:36:56:10 – 00:37:13:08
Charlie Dawson
You say there are three things you need to do. So I guess that sort of thing is one of them. So you need to you need to stay very and driven and and very well connected to the outside world. The second is you need a continual flow of what we call moments of belief, which would be like moment of truth.

00:37:13:08 – 00:37:29:09
Charlie Dawson
So the one in front queuing thing was an example of a moment of belief or the allocated seating thing for easyJet was a moment of belief. So so people believe what you do. So if you keep doing things that keep showing people that we work this way round here, not, not the conventional way around and people keep believing.

00:37:29:17 – 00:38:01:04
Charlie Dawson
But the final thing is we describe as you need to be boldest when challenged most so so and the final thing is the most difficult because that’s when the competitor comes along with a different or a different kind of answer to yours. And frankly, you’ve probably got a 5050 chance of of succeeding at that point, even if you are doing all the right things, because somehow you have to reinvent yourself, reinvent your model, at least, you know, you keep your beliefs, but you reinvent your model to try and fulfill your purpose in an in a better way than the new model is now allowing you to do.

00:38:01:13 – 00:38:16:11
Charlie Dawson
And sounds to someone like, you know, a lot a lot of retailers, established retailers are struggling with this because someone of Amazon just has a better model. And it’s in a lot of ways and it’s very difficult if you go in expensive stores to, you know, you need to reinvent yourself in some way, you know, to to stay relevant.

00:38:16:11 – 00:38:24:20
Charlie Dawson
So so it is. It is I mean, it is genuinely hard to keep doing this sort of thing, but it is also, I think, genuinely important to keep trying to totally.

00:38:24:20 – 00:38:42:12
Philippa White
And that’s where you guys come in, actually, because you take a bit of the pressure off of people. So it’s a good shout out to the foundation because that’s obviously what your companies or your clients are. They hire you for sure. So just as we wrapping up, is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you’d like to tell our listeners?

00:38:42:14 – 00:38:56:14
Charlie Dawson
So so I guess. I guess, yeah, I know we’ve been going on for a little while, but I guess it’s almost like a very little thing. So we talked about some quite big things that you might do, but every little thing that is a clue to beliefs I think is worth looking at is language. So it’s just it’s very interesting.

00:38:56:14 – 00:39:22:06
Charlie Dawson
You know, if you’re if you’re in an organization just looking at the language that you use and trying to choose sort of outside language rather than inside out language. So outside in, outside in language is all about trying to create, pull and trying to be attractive and trying to earn customers decisions inside out. Language is about things like driving sales, you know, pushing, you know, hitting the numbers, that kind of stuff.

00:39:22:11 – 00:39:36:07
Charlie Dawson
And I still remember actually, you know, it was in some work with with a with a car company. It’s a big clue. There’s a direct marketing agency that was doing some work with them and they they got their customer relationship mapped on a on the wall. And there was a great big bit of the relationship that they called.

00:39:36:14 – 00:39:55:03
Charlie Dawson
They given a name to it and they called it the Phelan period. And and that bit of the relationship was the bit where the customer actually owned the car and marketing agency that was, that was of no interest to them because there was a great long period where they couldn’t do anything, they couldn’t say anything. And it just occurred to me, like for the customer, that’s it, that that is where the value is.

00:39:55:08 – 00:40:09:09
Charlie Dawson
That’s everything, not nothing. And so it was a great clue as to as to, you know, the motivations of the people involved. So so yeah. So I think I think there’s this just, you know, catch yourself with the language that you’re using and just think about what the beliefs are that that signifies.

00:40:09:13 – 00:40:24:00
Philippa White
Absolutely fantastic. Really great way to sum this up. Amazing. Just things for us all to think about and ponder on. And I just really appreciate your time. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.

00:40:24:00 – 00:40:26:13
Charlie Dawson
Thank you very much for asking. Thinking, right? I really.

00:40:26:13 – 00:40:30:19
Philippa White
Enjoy. Great, good. Amazing. Thank you very much. Charlie, will connect again soon. Take care.

00:40:30:19 – 00:40:31:18
Charlie Dawson
Jess. Thank you.

00:40:31:21 – 00:40:34:16
Philippa White
Bye bye.

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