Start Simple. Assume Nothing. (Issue 892)

In which we are reminded to check the basics, first, when we are assessing client challenges.

“I have no heat in my car…which isn’t great since the temperature here is in the 30’s.”  I was chatting with a friend when this point came up. “I took it to the car dealership; they said this is a pretty typical, that it’s a complicated problem, and that I would need to pay somewhere between $900 and $1,800 to fix it. They said they would have to take out the dashboard and air bag to get to it. I don’t want to take out the dashboard or spend that kind of money on this car. I’ve driven my 200,000 miles in it. I hate to let it go but….I don’t know what to do.”

“I think you should see another mechanic and get a second opinion.”

 “Yeah, good point,” he said. “I can’t do that for a few days and I’ll do it.”

A few days later, we spoke again. “How’s it going with the car heat?”, I asked.

“You’ll never believe it,” he said. “I took the car to an independent mechanic. He said it would probably be somewhere between $400 and $800 to fix the problem. So I thanked him and went to get gas.”

“So, you’re no further along, then?”

“So, I pull into the gas station and a guy who, I guess, is a mechanic working there comes out to fill up the car and I told him what was happening. So, he says, ‘Pop the hood,’ which I did, and he takes off the radiator cap, pulls out his flashlight to look into the radiator, and says, ‘I can’t see any coolant here.’ So, I bought an $8.00 container of engine coolant, filled up the radiator, and now I have heat!”

So, while I was wondering when my friend last checked his car fluids and how soon his engine might have overheated and seized because of low coolant levels, I thought, “From the gas station mechanic, we learn, ‘start simple’ and ‘assume nothing’.” Truly elegant.

When we sell sophisticated services or products, we can fall in love with them, so proud of their technical wizardry, speed, and elegance. When clients articulate problems our products will solve, we are quick to recommend them. We want to crush clients’ problems with our products’ full fury… or expand the definition of their problems so that our products’ full fury applies.

Uh-uh. Start simple and assume nothing. For example, if a business owner says, “I need to speed up the money my clients owe me,” there are all sorts of digital accounts receivable acceleration and management software tools a banker or software salesperson could recommend.

The garage mechanic might ask: (1) How fast do you invoice? (2) How fast do you ask them to pay? and (3) Do you call them if they’re late?  

Maybe additional technical wizardry would be helpful, and maybe not. But first, make sure there’s enough coolant in the radiator.

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