Our Customers Face Situations Like This All of the Time
As I uploaded the photos from this year’s fireworks show over the lighted North Bridge on the Chicago River, I began to think of the event. It’s quite a business to put on a 15-20 minute display of fireworks. As I considered the teams of people and the skills that were needed, a thought kept occurring, suppose that a client said to me …
Your charge, should you decide to keep working with us, is to pull off the best fireworks display the city has ever known!
The more I thought about the idea, the more I realized that the question I was pondering isn’t so different from what we ask new social media managers every day of the week.
5 Questions for Putting on a Fireworks Display or Launching into Social Media
A great fireworks display is the result of planning, preparation, resources, and timing. The pyrotechnical art of combining noise, light, smoke and floating materials into design that burns with colored flames and moving sparks is a display of teamwork, technique, strategy and tactics in action! And that’s just to get the display in the air!
Beyond that crowd control and the traffic are a consideration. At the event I attended, the show was visible from the lake, the river, the streets, the pier, and a double decker bridge. The distraction of fireworks while people are managing transportation could cause more than minor accidents.
No wonder the colorful, brilliant displays are symbols of celebration, which often lead to competition!
I don’t know a thing about putting on a fireworks display. I don’t know makes them work, what’s dangerous, and what’s just for show. I don’t know what things cost and don’t have pyrotechnical experts in my most intimate networks.
Yet I’m an intelligent person.I’ve run a business. I’m good at asking questions.
What follows are 5 questions I would ask to make sure that I would know I was making an intelligent, solid and outstanding investment to pull off the best fireworks display (or social media launch) the city (or the industry) has every known.
- The mission and the vision: What does “the best fireworks display” or “the best social media launch” look like” in it’s visible and measurable result? Before we set out on a quest, we have to know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. I might not know how to produce a great fireworks display, but I know how I define one. Leaders take the time to articulate the vision and the mission to ensure that everyone who joins the quest is moving toward the same destination and to ensure when we communicate our vocabulary means the same things.
- The team: Who will bring the expertise, commitment, and the thinking to share the risk and share the benefits? Leaders reach out to people who can contribute to the thinking, not just the building. We look for folks who “get” the seriousness of the work and the fun of being part of building something no one can build alone. Start with the question, “Have you ever held a job – run a business – where if you made the wrong decision many other people beyond yourself would be hurt?” People who know their business can explain the controls they put in place to ensure right decisions and mitigate the risk. Experienced candidates can give simple explanations that show solid thinking about where the possible problems in your exact situation.
- The resources and quality standards: What do we need to do the job right — what adds quality and what adds cost? A wise boss once said to me, “Spend as much as it takes to do the work well and not one penny more.” When we ask about tools and resources, we can’t separate out the definition of quality.
Quality is the customer experience, not in the builder’s standards. If the customer cannot see, feel, hear, taste, touch, smell, understand, or perceive meaning from the difference, we are not adding quality — we are adding cost.
Read that bold paragraph again. Quality is in the customer experience.
- The systems and logistics: Who will own which part of the process to achieve optimal results? It’s easy to get this one backwards. Any production process needs to be talked through considering both values — the big picture order in which the stages must occur and the flexibility within each stage that allows the highest performance from the team. In any complicated production, every step has different time-goal orientations. It takes longer to produce the art than the words that might go with it. When one person’s output relies on another person’s input, it’s important to talk through the way the work flow will travel, how we’ll track it, and who will report on things that break or jam up.
- The time-frame: What’s a realistic time frame to get the fireworks display (or social media launch) done right, allowing flexibility for unforeseen detours? Inside any discrete event or first-time project is a new decision, a problem, or a complication that we didn’t foresee at the outset. Making room for such adventures from the beginning builds strength into the infrastructure, allows us to under promise and over deliver.
It’s only natural when we’re working on something truly exciting, that we want to get up and running. Making things happen is thrilling! However, watching things break isn’t quite as much fun. To get more of the first and far less of the second, take the time to do the planning and ask the right questions. The right questions can lead to a production that moves as seamlessly as water flowing on a summer day.
Even if you don’t know a thing about putting on a fireworks display or running a social media launch, the right questions can get to you to a successful outcome far more quickly than hoping you’ve found the right expert to do it for you. After all, it’s about a unique and spectacular outcome that serves the customer.
Did I forget any questions that you use to keep your projects in the success column?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!