“The community has the answer”
If ever I’m unsure of an action to take in our little business, I draw on this message and repeat it to myself and anyone else who’ll listen. And no, I don’t care what Henry Ford and Steve Jobs think.
Messrs Ford and Jobs both famously suggested that their customers wouldn’t know what they wanted if it ran over them or fell out of their pocket.
Henry figured customers would like a faster horse and Steve knew no-one had even contemplated having 1,000 songs in their Levis.
The reality of course is it’s purely because Henry could see that people wanted faster horses that – please excuse the pun – he knew the motor car had legs, and it’s only by observing the use of Walkmans, that Steve saw the potential of a device that was smaller in size and bigger in capacity.
"To innovate it’s key that we have an inkling of what’s possible, albeit before our customers are equipped to articulate their wishes."
And so it is that our followers, likers, critics and customers can always show us the way ahead. Our job as soloists is to make it easy for them to speak, to pay attention to what they say and be aware of what we can create as a consequence.
A couple of weeks ago some nice people at Australia Post got in touch and told me how they were transforming their business with considerable input from their customers.
What’s more, as an advocate for the largest sector of Australian small businesses – the solo business owner – they wanted to tell me all about it and [full disclosure] they offered to pay me for my time, cover my travel expenses and put me up in a hotel in Melbourne.
Let’s say my interest was piqued and it’s never too difficult persuading me to escape domestic duties for a few days.
At the start of our time together, Nicky Tracey Head of Community Relations made this clear statement that set the context for their position as a community-led organisation:
“Australia Post has helped Australian communities connect and grow for more than 200 years. Today, we provide services to more Australians than any other company – we deliver to more than 11 million places, and help customers in more than 7000 communities across the country.
As a government business enterprise, we are not tax payer funded and we are proud that any dividend we pay to the government is used to help build a better Australia for everyone.”
Australia Post listening and responding to little ol’ us. Who’d have thought?
Well it turns out they genuinely are. There’s no denying their business has been massively disrupted in recent years and there’s no sign of it abating any time soon.
Turning round an organisation of that size is a H-U-G-E undertaking and I bet there are a few postal staffers who dream of being responsive, agile soloists. So how are they doing it and what can we learn?
Well, shock, horror, they’ve launched an online community and they’re responding, listening and taking action. Check it out here.
As they say in the blurb, “It’s a new website for sharing your feedback, getting the latest information and tips, and helping shape the future of Australia Post.”
Cynical? I was too. I’ve heard all this customer-centric rhetoric from big business a thousand times over. But listening to over a dozen members of their top management and a swathe of staff from the sorting office worker, to the postie, I am here to tell you this is a group of people who are committed to serving their public.
And best of all, they know we have the answers.
If big businesses are doing it, we certainly should too. What can you ask the community around you, and where may it lead?
If you were to share your opinions about how Australia Post can help solo business owners to succeed, what would you tell them?
Let me know in the comments below – and don’t forget to visit the Australia Post community website to tell the leaders there, too.
After all, we have the power to influence the ways that Australia Post can support soloists like ourselves into the future!