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5 bizarre business strategies

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1. The customer is the most important person in the room

When Groupon founder Andrew Mason was fired, his parting message reportedly stated: “Have the courage to start with the customer.”

This is something that Amazon has always taken into account.

But when it comes to boardroom tactics, there’s is one of the most bizarre. During meeting, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos leaves one seat open – effectively dubbed “the empty chair” by staff members.

This seat I reserved for the customer, who Bezos explains is “the most important person in the room”. This ensures that everyone is always conscious about how any decision would impact their customers.

“If there is one reason we have done better than our peers in the Internet space … it is because we have focused like a laser on customer experience,” said Bezos.

2. It’s all about being a tight-knit family

Zappos has an almost legendary staff culture, which is quite surprising given the company’s rapid growth.

So ever wondered how Zappos has managed to preserve its family-like atmosphere all the way from start-up to a 1,500 company? They need to know everyone on the team to log into their computers.

In ‘Delivering Happiness‘, founder Tony Hsieh wrote: “Zappos plays the ‘Face Game’ so that everyone can learn more about each other.”

Here it goes: When you log into the system, and after you enter your password, a picture of a fellow employee pops up onto the screen. You then need to guess the right name out of five options. If you guess incorrectly, you immediately get taken to that person’s biography.

“Although there is no penalty for giving the wrong answer, we do keep a record of everyone’s score,” Hsieh explains.

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3. Make your intellectual property (IP) available to anyone

When big companies stumble across innovative technology, they tend to patent it straight away and keep the secret’ locked away in an incredibly secure vault. That’s not the case for Tesla.

They’ve displayed their crown jewels in the open for anyone to use. But here’s the sneaky part: technically they aren’t giving anything away.

By making its patents available, auto manufacturers will end up expanding on the technology rather than using it to make something else from scratch. This means that the likelihood of Tesla striking a deal with auto makers is extremely high.

4. Send consumers to the competition

Home décor company Wayfair found that despite the increase in their web traffic, 99 per cent of consumers didn’t actually buy anything.

This is largely due to ‘webrooming’, when people first do research when it comes to bigger products such as patio doors. And as Wayfair is one of the biggest home décor businesses out there, it has become an incredibly popular webrooming site.

“This is totally fine and appropriate,” said Mike O’Hanlon, vice-president of business development at Wayfair. “But we thought we could make a few nickels on customers that wouldn’t otherwise purchase from us.

“Why not show customers nearby home décor stores, then charge local brick-and-mortars for the lead?”

5. Don’t advertise

Costco stay away from marketing, which is definitely an anomaly in the retail world. But Costco founder James Sinegal has managed to compete on the price of his products alone. That surely deserves a round of applause!

The company has never worked with a public relations company and spends all of zero per cent of its budget on advertising.

Although the benefits may not be visible, Costco does one thing that many companies can learn from. The company forges personal relationships with smaller businesses.

“Our business was founded so that small businesses could come in and buy essentially everything they needed for their business under one roof,” said Sinegal. “Café owners could purchase all of their food and drink, cigarettes and candy, cleaning supplies, pots and pans, toilet paper and towels, pads and pencils, and so on.”

Their main goal is to maintain a network, and so they assign company representatives to each customers’ store.

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