Business Focus – Lessons from Iqbal
Little car trouble + laziness = big car trouble. That’s a given.
You can learn a thing or two about finding focus for your enterprise because as the following story illustrates, a focused business may be the only ticket to success that an entrepreneur requires.
“We have checked everything else…” my mechanic trails off, “…the problem…” he yanks at something within the engine, “…is not mechanical…but electrical. Could be…” the car engine revs loudly, “…the spark plug, the cables or the coil…”
“Coil? Did you say coil? That’s expensive,”
“The problem is with the coils, it has to be.”
“You sure? Because these coils are an expensive part to replace,” I say.
There is a reason I go to my mechanic for my car troubles, and that is not only his skill, but also his honesty.
On my third visit for the same engine problem that just won’t go away, he turns to me, looking down, he finally tells me, ‘yai mairee bass kee baat nahi’ (it is now beyond me).
Comforting. On more levels than one.
Now what do I do?
He tells me to go find Iqbal.
“Iqbal, who’s he now?”
“He is a well-known electrician for cars, and is considered a master for EFI cars.”
“OK, so I go to him and give him your reference?” I ask.
“No, he doesn’t know me. In fact, I haven’t even seen him,” he says, “but he is well-known and should be able to fix your car”.
Being well-known in your profession is a good thing, no? I wouldn’t mind if all investors line up when I come up with an idea, for example.
How could you be well-known in your profession?
And why was I referred to another mechanic by my previous one? Why did he give away his competition?
My mechanic gave me the name of his competition because my mechanic was skilled enough to know his own limitations, and honest enough to let me know them.
But the other mechanic, this Iqbal fellow, how did he get to be famous? How come he has the holy grail of all advertising i.e. Word Of Mouth, working for him?
And do you know why Word of Mouth is as important as it is for your business? Because I will definitely go to someone who is referred to me by a person whom I respect (for their skill) and trust (for their honesty).
So I had to go to Iqbal.
I head out to another crowded Lahore market, looking for this Iqbal. I find his workshop almost immediately.
Iqbal is busy with one of the odd 8 or so cars waiting to be fixed. His apprentice walks over to me, and as we all do sometimes when it comes to things like these, I pretend to already know what the problem is.
“The problem is with the coils,” I say, peering into the engine as if I am reading an open book.
There are four coils, each one costing about 2,000 rupees per coil to replace.
“No, the problem is with your car pulse sensor,” the apprentice says, without even lifting his head up – he probably was reading the engine like an open book, “and they sometimes get dirty and start causing this problem. I will just clean it and fit it back in and you’ll be good to go.”
And before I can say something intelligent, he shouts out to no one in particular, “get my tools.”
15 minutes later, the car was diagnosed, fixed and as ready as a priest on Sunday.
Total bill: 300 rupees for the car checkup, and as the problem was an easy-to-fix one, they didn’t charge me anything extra; they covered the fix up within the check up.
Money I technically saved? Anywhere between 8 to 10 thousand rupees.
Remarkable. Three week’s worth of back and forth, trying to get the car highway-worthy, and all it took was not even 15 minutes. It is always a pleasure to see how the pros make it look so easy.
And the cherry on the cake? Before presenting me with a bill, a guy walks up to me, with a printed form, taking down my contact details and the work done. This is for their records, he tells me, so the next time I come, they have a history of my car. Where am I? Who are these people?
While driving back – the car rode smoothly I tell ya’ – I told myself to somehow repay Iqbal’s skill and honesty. The Word of Mouth has come full circle and now I am another happy customer, more than willing to not only recommend him to my friends, but even impress my friends with my find.
So I learnt a thing or two from this experience:
- Iqbal has a well-defined niche (EFI specialist),
- To-the-point customer service. There were no bells and whistles, but they took down the necessary information from me to serve me better next time around.
- he and his team had an honest application of their obvious skill. They DID NOT maximize profits, but chose to help me not only by fixing my problem, but by being honest about it as well (that’s for-profit philanthropy for you right there).
- And most important, there was a clear focus on development and application of their core skill, instead of other non-core areas of the business. The customer service was not elaborate but was definitely there, the focus was not on maximizing profits (300 instead of 8,000)…these things, at best, are secondary to your business. The focus was their core skill.They fixed cars. Period. That’s their trade, that’s their skill and that’s their focus. Another testament is the fact that other electricians and mechanics come to their workshop once a week for apprenticeship. This is a pure proof of focus on their skill. Remarkable.
How can your business learn from this? How can you continuously improve your skill?
Customers are your best salesforce
It is hard to imagine one of your customers trying to find you more customers.
It is hard to think of your customers – people who pay you good money to do what you do – to actually be your best ‘brand ambassadors’.
But it is the best policy to have: try to put out a product/service that will turn your customers into your best, unpaid salesforce.
It sounds hard. I wouldn’t believe it either. Till you start noticing how you insisted on ordering food from your favorite restaurant, how you seek out your favorite sales rep, how you want your real estate agent to help your friend in finding his next home. We may or may not be a fan, but we definitely end up acting like one.
I did not even meet Iqbal the electrician. But I know whom to recommend next time your car has electric trouble, or next time my business has focus trouble.