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Simply the Best

If you've visited Habanero's offices recently, you were probably intrigued by the life-size cut-out of Tina Turner that greeted you in reception. Tina also appears on the homepage of our intranet. So what's going on?

Last Friday Steven rolled out our quarterly theme: "Simply the Best" in SharePoint. While the song may not be the best piece of musicianship by the venerable rocker, our message is clear: Habanero is poised to be the best in the world at SharePoint 2010, and our top priority in the first quarter this year is to make our name synonymous with leadership in this vast market space. In keeping with our long-term company goal of being remarkable, Habanero should be recognized in the market as, well, "simply the best, better than all the rest."

In his book The Dip, marketing guru Seth Godin wrote, "Our culture celebrates superstars. We reward the product or the song or the organization or the employee that is number one. The rewards are heavily skewed, so much so that its typical for #1 to get ten times the benefits of #10, and a hundred times the benefit of #100." That's a pretty compelling reason to focus on being #1.

Our customers and most prospective new clients are looking for the best choice. When there is limited time or opportunity to experiment, we intentionally limit our choices to those who are at the top. People and companies don't have a lot of time and don't want to take a lot of risks. If you're visiting a new city, do you want to visit a typical restaurant or do you ask the concierge for the best places?* More to the point in our context, when we're hiring someone do we look for a few average candidates or do we focus on only the most qualified people?

There is another, maybe more important reason why being #1 matters. There is only room at the top for a few. Scarcity makes being at the top worth something. Worth a lot in fact.* At Habanero we focus on providing premium services to the best clients and doing the choicest work. But this is a privilege afforded only to the very best. Scarcity carries a premium because so few can master it.

To get there, to be the best, we must cross a vast chasm where we become disillusioned, discouraged, frightened, and tired, and where we feel like no matter what we do the odds are against us. It's this chasm, the "dip" that Godin writes about that so few ever cross, and the reason why being #1 is so important. And so advantageous. "Successful people don't just ride out the dip. They don't just buckle down and survive it. No, they lean into the dip. They push harder, changing the rules as they go, just because you know you're in the dip doesn't mean you have to happily live with it. Dips don't last quite as long when you whittle at them."

The goal of a quarterly theme is to create alignment and focus across the company. Let's face it, we're all focused on different things. The purpose of a quarterly theme is to clarify our priorities and engage the entire company in a context that makes a few things crystal clear: what is most important and why, how we'll measure success, and what we'll do to celebrate or reward ourselves.

If well executed, the theme ensures that no matter what we're individually engaged in, we will be thinking about how our efforts contribute to achieving our goals. A well defined theme sets the stage for achievement of our priorities by making sure every single person in Habanero would give the same answer to a stranger who asked, "what's Habanero focused on this quarter?" (And no, employees are not expected to sing the response.)

* — Ideas attributed to Seth Godin from "Pushing Through the Dip; How to Become the Best in the World",