The Chronicles of Andy and Pat – Episode 3
By Dave D’Arcy, Founder of Laughing Leadership
Over the months, Andy grew in confidence. He was learning new skills and removing any fear of failure. After all, one of Pat’s many mantras was, “Mistakes are fine. A child learns to walk by falling over”. Of course, this lack of fear didn’t remove the occurrence of mistakes.
Here is the tale of one such mistake.
Pat often spoke of the “product/service triangle”. In this triangle, every product or service had three potential factors. These were “Good”, “Fast”, and “Cheap”. Pat’s assertion was that a customer could have any two of the factors but not all three. In essence, if a customer’s priorities were for speed of delivery and high quality, the product or service would have a premium price (i.e., they could not have cheap). Similarly, if the customer wanted the lower price but still valued quality, the lead time to deliver would not be fast. And finally, if speed and price were the need, it was not likely to be the best quality.
Andy understood this mantra but on this occasion his judgement was tested. During this particular week, The Brit Awards (the UK music industry Oscars) was being hosted in a venue near the branch. A call was received and passed to Andy. It was the promoter of the event with a strange request. There was a Global music superstar appearing at the event the next night, the artist had a very particular requirement. He wanted black towels to be provided in the dressing room and on stage and they needed to be delivered within 2 hours. “No problem,” declared Andy. Confident that he could source and deliver said items and due to the bespoke service, could charge a premium price. Clearly this masterstroke was going to impress Pat.
The complexity of the request then grew. Firstly, the promoter said they had to be brand-new towels.
“No problem! But this may mean we will take a little longer than 2 hours as we will need to put them through a wash cycle,” Andy told the promoter.
“No, he wants BRAND-NEW,” he responded.
Andy explained that brand-new towels would not be absorbent until washed and therefore that couldn’t work. After some negotiation, it was agreed that washed towels would be acceptable, but the need was urgent. Andy quoted the promoter a premium price for the service and agreed to deliver.
Filled with pride, Andy went to Pat’s office to relay the incredible work he had done. He had won the custom of a true megastar; he had successfully negotiated all of the customer’s needs despite them being beyond the standard offering, and he had secured an excellent price. Triangle complete. Pat was indeed impressed.
This is where the problem started. Whilst the towels were en route to the venue, the promoter called once more, now stating that the price was way too high and that they were not willing to take delivery unless the price was reduced. Andy, not wanting to lose his future story and unwilling to face the embarrassment of losing the deal, conceded and lowered the price.
Of course, it was then necessary to relay this news to Pat, who was disappointed in the events and declared to Andy and all others who were now excited by their “A” list celebrity encounter, that it appeared sometimes a customer could indeed have all three – good, fast, and cheap.
Andy clearly got swept up in the moment and made a mistake ultimately. It was a lesson that he certainly took with him throughout his career. The key lesson was that compromise must be beneficial on all sides, if all are to feel successful. The other important outcome and the demonstration of real leadership is that whilst Pat pointed out the error made by Andy, it did not change the relationship between them or the autonomy with which Andy was allowed to work. He had made a mistake and learned. After all that’s how a child learns to walk.
Of course, it did become a story shared by both Pat and Andy for many years to come but with quite different viewpoints.