Business on a Napkin: The 30-Second Company Philosophy

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I just received a regular update from the Chairman of Federal Express, Fred Smith. And in it, he expresses (as he often does – which is for another post) the 5 focus areas of FedEx, which have been the “pillars of FedEx success over the years”. ┬áHere’s two of them. Let’s see if you catch it:

2. People – Service – Profit

5. The Purple Promise

Here’s the thing that I want you to catch: with those 6 words and 30 seconds, Fred Smith (and indeed anyone else associated with FedEx) can explain the entire business philosophy of Federal Express. Whether you’re in an elevator, a restaurant, in line at an airport Starbucks, or sharing a taxi with someone, those two phrases encapsulate the entire strategy behind Federal Express. They are the quick guide to FedEx. Do you or your organization or business have a 30-second philosophy?

The 30-second spill, the “back of the napkin business strategy“, is the no-frills answer to the all-important question: so tell me about what you do. Here’s why the back-of-the-napkin approach is so vital:

Business on a Napkin

  • Everyone’s Time is Budgeted. You get a brief amount of time to grab anyone’s attention. The 30-second philosophy allows you to use their time wisely, and perhaps allows you to get your foot in the door before becoming a bore.
  • Simplicity is Key. You don’t have to consistently carry around portfolios and strategic documents in order to explain your company to others. You simply need to memorize 4-8 words or 2-4 phrases that encapsulate your company.
  • Terse Communication is Becoming the Norm. You get 140 characters on Twitter to say something meaningful. 120 if you want to be quotable. Often, your quota is less in the real world. ┬áMake it count.
  • Focus Your Business. By boiling down the pages and pages of strategy and documentation you have to a few phrases, you’ve in a sense focused your business to its number one goal: the mission of the company or organization. This is key for moving forward. As the old saying goes, if you aim at everything, you’ll hit nothing. Focus on a target, and always move towards it.
  • Replicate Yourself. With something memorable, catchy, and efficient in its use of words, the business philosophy will always be able to be passed on. That is, as you’re training leaders, train them the napkin philosophy first, so that immediately start to dwell on it, flesh it through, and in turn pass it on to others. After a while, bam! , you’ve multiplied yourself as a cheerleader for your business, a purveyor of your organization’s philosophy, and as a leader within your company.

So here’s what I want to know: what’s your napkin philosophy? In the comments below, or using Twitter @smarterbiz, send me your business strategy in 140 words or less. The Top 5 get published for the world to see.

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    This post was mentioned on Twitter by smarterbiz: We want your “#business on a napkin”. 140 characters. Top 5 get published. You have 24 hours. Go….

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