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Skills Focus vs. Customer Focus

Submitted by on August 16, 2009 – 11:50 pmNo Comment

I was reviewing some notes for an upcoming presentation and found this gem of a quote from a BusinessWeek interview with Jeff Bezos.

Q: Every company claims to be customer-focused. Why do you think so few are able to pull it off?
A:
Companies get skills-focused, instead of customer-needs focused. When [companies] think about extending their business into some new area, the first question is “why should we do that—we don’t have any skills in that area.” That approach puts a finite lifetime on a company, because the world changes, and what used to be cutting-edge skills have turned into something your customers may not need anymore. A much more stable strategy is to start with “what do my customers need?” Then do an inventory of the gaps in your skills. Kindle is a great example. If we set our strategy by what our skills happen to be rather than by what our customers need, we never would have done it. We had to go out and hire people who know how to build hardware devices and create a whole new competency for the company.

Particularly in times of rapid change – the question of what you decide to focus on can be critically important.    This also, in my opinion, reinforces the business logic of Amazon’s recent purchase of Zappos which I wrote about here.

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