Moving Mountains

by Joe Calloway

“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs

I love the words that Steve Jobs chose: “get your thinking clean to make it simple.” That’s no easy task. It’s much easier to have our thinking cluttered by a thousand questions and complications. It’s hard work to get focused and to simplify things. But, as Jobs said, it’s worth it, because when you make things simple, “you can move mountains.”


Steve Jobs is a good role model for the power of simplicity and focus.

In a business that most would say is, by its very nature, incredibly complicated, Steve Jobs was able to make Apple a dominant force in the marketplace. Bill Gates once said that Jobs’s ability to “focus on a few things that count” was amazing. Tim Cook, the current CEO of Apple, has said that Jobs could “cut out the noise” like no one he had ever seen. Jobs had the essential leadership skill of keeping everyone focused on what was most important.”

“Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.”
– Pete Seeger

This Old “Truth” Is A Lie

by Joe Calloway

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

That quote has been attributed to everyone from Mark Twain to Henry Ford to Albert Einstein.  Whoever said it was wrong.  Or at least they’d be wrong today.  Today, that old “truth” is a lie.

Here’s what’s true: If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll begin to get less and less than you’ve always gotten.

If you do what you’ve always done, you will begin to fail, because:

  • Your competition’s getting better (if you don’t believe that, you’re delusional)
  • You’re ignoring trends
  • Your customers are changing
  • Expectations are rising
  • Your industry/profession/business is being redefined and reinvented whether you like it or not

If you’ve getting better at something and still not succeeding, it means that either:

  • Your competition is getting better faster than you are or,
  • The market doesn’t value what you’re doing in the first place. (Then it’s a hobby, not a business.)

The one sure formula for business success is constant, relentless improvement at something that the market values.

What did you do today that made you better than you were yesterday?

If your answer is nothing, then your business just failed.

Happy. Easy

by Joe Calloway

The Power of Happy.  happy-and-easy

“I don’t care if my employees are happy” = “I don’t know much about business.” A Harvard Business Review analysis showed happy workers were 31% more productive, had 37% higher sales, and were three times more creative.

The Power of Easy.

If you make it easy, then you make customers happy, and you’ll make a lot of money.

  • Uber: easier to catch a ride.
  • McDonald’s: easier to get breakfast whenever you want it.
  • Warby Parker: easier to buy eyeglasses.
  • Southwest Airlines: easier to change flights.
  • Quicken Loans Rocket Mortgage: easier to finance.
  • easier to book a band for your fraternity.
  • Gilson Boards: easier to buy a customized snowboard.
  • Blue Apron: easier to cook great meals.
  • Spotify: easier to listen to music.
  • Uline: easier to buy office supplies.
  • easier to promote your business.

What do you make easy for your customers?

Joe Calloway makes his clients happy, by helping them make things easy.

Keep It Simple.

by Joe Calloway

To the extent that you make things simple for your customers, you create value. You also create a distinct competitive advantage shared by virtually all market leaders.

keep it simple

Chances are very good that you’re making things way more complicated than they need to be, for yourself, your team, and your customers. Look around.  The best companies and the top individual performers make things simple.

Siegal+Gale publishes an annual Global Brand Simplicity Index, that has consumers around the world rank companies according to their perceived simplicity or complexity. Look at the companies that ranked highest at making things simple for customers:

  • Google
  • Netflix
  • Publix
  • Amazon
  • Chipotle (Survey taken before their recent quality/safety issues. Will be interesting to see what happens with that.)

You get the point. And when it comes to successful new companies that are disrupters, they all achieve success through creating simplicity: Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker, Spotify, etc. They make life simpler. They make things easier to do and buy.

As the Executive In Residence with Belmont University’s Center For Entrepreneurship, I work with students who are entering the marketplace with sometimes wildly disruptive ventures. One of my favorites is a company that has taken the complicated, cumbersome, and often uncomfortable process of booking a band for a college party or event, and boiled it down to using a simple website and a credit card. Amazing. Even better, it’s amazingly simple.

What gave MacDonald’s trouble in the marketplace recently? A menu that had too much and was too complicated. What makes Wingstop a perennial market leader and growth machine for 21 years? The menu is simple and they rarely change it.

What’s your simplicity rating? Do you make things more complicated than they need to be? How easy are you to do business with? Does everyone in your organization have a simple and accurate understanding of what matters most?

Steve Jobs said, “If you can make things simple, you can move mountains.”

Keep it simple. It’s not easy, but it pays off.

Lipstick On A Pig (A rant by Joe Calloway)

by Joe Calloway

Lipstick on a pig – Exhibit A: A hotel in Washington, DC told me my roomlipstick-on-a-pig.jpg service order would be delivered in 30 minutes or less.  Over an hour and a half later, after making four calls to room service and being lied to four times, they finally sent my order along with a cart that had wine, cheese, fruit, desserts, etc. – as an apology.  I sent it all back – untouched.  I called the room service manager and we had a conversation about doing the job, training the people, and telling the truth.  Giving me a cart of goodies is like putting lipstick on a pig.

Lipstick on a pig – Exhibit B: My car dealer took four tries to fix my car.  Four.  In the meantime they were nice as pie, apologetic, provided me with a free loaner car – they did everything right, except fix the car.  Not doing your job well but being nice about it is lipstick on a pig.

Lipstick on a pig – Exhibit C: Flight to New York delayed because the flight crew was late to the airport.  The WiFi we were promised didn’t work.  One restroom was out of order.  But two weeks later I got a nice letter of apology from the CEO of the airline.  Yep….lipstick.  On a pig.

Nothing takes the place of consistent, excellent performance.  Nothing.  Apologies and treats are easy.  Being really good at what you do consistently takes hard work.

Don’t put lipstick on a pig.

Do the hard work necessary to create value, consistently deliver quality, and achieve excellence in performance.

Being Different Wears Off. Being Better Is Profitable

By Joe Calloway

Being different is easy. Wear a funny hat – boom – you’re different.

Being better, and winning at the basics over a sustained period of time, is very, very difficult….and it’s what market leaders do.

“Flash in the pan” success stories don’t impress me much.  The Cafe Du Monde impresses me.  The Cafe DuMonde in New Orleans has been doing a booming business since 1862.  They sell coffee and beignets.  This is in New Orleans, where sometimes it seems that everybody and their brother is selling coffee and beignets.  So when you’re selling the same thing as everyone else, how do you succeed and then sustain that success (since 1862)?

cafe du monde logoIn an interview, VP and Owner Burt Benrud said, “When people come to The Cafe Du Monde, they know what to expect, and they always get it, and that’s why they’re so happy.”

Well, now. There you go. Business 101.

Be really good at what you do, every single time, with every customer, and you win.

Some will say “being really good every single time isn’t enough” – oh yeah?  Try it. Those who say that usually aren’t good every single time.  If they were – they’d be winning.

Innovate – YES! Always innovate. But only in the interest of creating value for the customer. There is no other reason.

Gimmicks, buzzers, bells, being “different” – always wear off.

Value, quality, and consistency never do.

Being different is easy.  Being better is profitable.