I love a turnaround story. One of the first of these books I read was From Worst to First by Gordon Bethune, then CEO of Continental Airlines, and Scott Huler. Continental had been in and out of bankruptcy protection and was again staring into the abyss.
Bethune’s team quickly worked up their Fly to Win plan,
We stopped doing things that lose money. We fly to places our customers want to go. We got rid [a loss making subsidiary] because nobody wanted it, and we replaced it with more service from our hubs, which people did want.
We worked hard to rebuild our relationships with our distributors and our customers (frequent flyers). And we focus every single day on the most basic trick in the world: valuing what our customer values and providing it.
A basic trick
That basic trick, of defining success the way customers do, is so simple and so powerful.
As Bethune goes on to say, Continental’s customers had been telling them how to win for a decade, and the airline had ignored the advice. When they finally listened and followed through, revenues and profits and staff retention and customer satisfaction and loyalty all went up.
It was clean, safe, reliable service from hubs we could manage in planes we could fly to places they wanted to go, with amenities … that made their travelling experience better.
No surprise, when Continental forgot the secret, everything came back down to earth.
Skippy Strategy: How do your customers define success? What would you stop or start doing if you set the answer as direction of your compass.
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