I was having coffee with a very good friend mine and while he was telling me about some of his plans, he brought up the concept of a business having certain non-negotiable factors that never really occured to me before.
What are non-negotiable factors?
Every company has products or services(increasingly a combination of both) and often the success of it hinges upon a key set of factors.
For Apple, it’s the whole “it just works” thing.
For the Lenovo Thinkpads, it’s the reliability of their devices.
For 37signals, it’s the simplicity.
These are the areas where they never compromise because in doing so, it jeopardises how well customers accept(maybe even reject) the product. In these areas, they will spend more than planned if necessary.
While working on the APEX project, I had initially thought that the uptime of the system was critical but as I spent more time thinking about it and discovered that there were ways to keep the system working even if there was downtime, I began to realise that there were other more critical factors around the issue of brand perception and level of engagement with the customers and the community at large. Without these two taken care of as the highest priority, there would be no business to talk of.
How do you identify your business’s non-negotiable factors?
Look at one aspect of your product or service and ask yourself, “If this wasn’t at it’s best, would my customer still buy it?” If, not then you’ve identified one factor.
I do think you need to know exactly what your customer profile is like before you can do this.
For instance, if you wanted to sell cars to people who valued safety a lot, then you better make sure you do all you can to build good running cars that keep people safe as opposed to just cars that bring you from point A and B but totally offer no protection in the event of an accident.
Of course if you were only targeting people who wanted a cheap car, then of course you could be less ‘safe’.