We use the word extraordinary often at Inaccord. Our raison d’etre is to enable organisations to develop extraordinary relationships and as a result to deliver extraordinary results.
But what do we mean by extraordinary? One dictionary definition is as follows: “Going beyond what is usual, regular, or customary, exceptional to a very marked extent”. So, being extraordinary means to go beyond the norm, to be exceptional. In turn, being exceptional means to be well above average and by definition it’s therefore uncommon. The alternative is to be ordinary. Or average. But does anyone want to be ordinary and to achieve ordinary things? Really? For most people ordinary means something less than they’d ideally like.
We tend to use words like ‘dreams’, ‘ambitions’, or ‘goals’ when we’re talking about the things we’d ideally like. Does anyone dream about being average? It isn’t aspirational, it’s just ok, it has flaws and weaknessess. Think about the very best people you know. Those you like and respect the most. Isn’t it because they are extraordinary in some way? Perhaps it’s their honesty and integrity, maybe it’s their enthusiasm, their courage, compassion, kindness, beauty, care for others, willingness to listen or some other quality. Whatever that quality is, it makes them stand out in some way, it makes them extraordinary. It’s the same in businesses.
What the very best organisations have in common is that they are extraordinary in some way. Think now about businesses you are a customer of. Which do you consider to be exceptional? If you can’t think of any, think of one you consider to be well above average. What is it that makes it stand out?
Here’s a few personal examples of things that mean businesses I know stand out: – A local baker who apologises when he increases prices, and explains why; – The loving care that the people* provide for my Mum(who has dementia) at the residential home where she lives; – A local garage who find a way to fit my car in quickly if ever it develops a fault, always call to explain in a way I can understand, what the problem is, give me options and ask what I want them to do, and then explain again when I collect it. They also offer advice and advance warning of potential problems. (The key to this may be how they do it. I’ve used other garages and they try to do the same thing but somehow fall short. ) – My accountant who without being asked, tries to add value to my business by offering advice, knowing that if it benefits me in the long run it will benefit him too. – A coffee shop where the people* recognise me even if I haven’t visited for some time and always seem to do that little bit extra (a free refill, a slightly bigger slice of cake or just by stopping for a moment to talk) to show they value my custom. These are all businesses which, as a result of what they do, earn my trust, make me feel understood, in control, informed, and special and valued. And as a result, for me they are extraordinary. I say for me because like beauty, whether a company is extraordinary or not is in the eye of the beholder. And whilst it’s obvious, it’s also worth remembering that the beholder is always a human being.
Business is still about relationships and whether a company is extraordinary is determined by what customers, employees, business partners, shareholders, and members of society think. It starts, and ends, with relationships. * In the examples above, not all the people at my Mum’s residential home and not all those at the coffee shop achieve the standard I associate with the business as a whole. But whilst some fall short, most of my interactions are positive – which is why I still view it as extraordinary. However, lose some of the people who provide me with the experience I value, or allow standards to fall, and the business risks losing the extraordinary tag I’ve attached to it.
If too many individual experiences fall short then the perception of the business as a whole changes. Inconsistency is a problem. Employees are all different, with different approaches, abilities, skills and attributes. They won’t perform and deliver in exactly the same way and connect in the same way with customers. But even allowing for these differences, the business should aim for consistently extraordinary experiences. I propose that the aim should be to be ordinarily extraordinary. Which businesses do you consider to be extraordinary? And do they pass the ordinarily extraordinary test?