In my city of East Lansing, Michigan, I always get great service at Lou and Harry's Grill. Lou and Harry's has three locations and mostly employs college students. You would think that with an extremely transient workforce that service and quality would be inconsistent. I have probably dined there 80 times and I have experienced the same speedy and professional service every time. One day at lunch, I asked Harry, the owner, how he did it. Without hesitation he said it was the customer. He wants their experience to be so good that they want to come back. Every customer should have a positive experience.

Harry is constantly talking to his managers about how important the customer is. He is often out on the restaurant floor talking to people, clearing tables, and sometimes serving food. Harry is passionate about customers. His customers have come to expect good food, low prices, speedy service, cleanliness throughout the restaurant, and friendliness from all the employees. Harry says that occasionally he does hire a person who doesn't get it about customers. He says they usually quit within a week or two. They don't fit in. Whenever I am free on Wednesdays, I go to Lou and Harry's. Where else can I get a gyro, a salad, a drink, and smiling professional service for $ 3.99?

On the west coast I have a friend, Lance Sorenson, who is the President of 24/7 Studio Equipment. Like Harry, Lance's passion is about customers. In most businesses it is considered great service if you get back to someone by the end of the day or within 24 hours. That would be poor customer responsiveness in Lance's book. Lance's rule is to get back to the customer immediately if not sooner. One time Lance was enjoying watching Pirates of the Caribbean at a theater. He was paged by a customer. He left the theater to take care of the customer, and missed the end of the movie. That was normal for Lance.

24/7 rents equipment to movie and television studios. They rent boom lifts, light towers, fork lifts, and much more. Since scripts are constantly being rewritten, customer needs change quickly. The customer may change his order several times in a day. 24/7 specializes in meeting those needs. The customer is number one at 24/7 and everything is set up around that concept. Since its startup in 2006, 24/7 has carefully hired people who already believe in that level of service. Due to their exceptional desire and ability to provide the best service and equipment to entertainment professionals, Lance and his team at 24/7 have already become the largest rental company serving TV and movie studios in the Los Angeles area.

Both of these businesses operate from a core idea. A core idea is a meaningful idea expressed simply. All decisions and behaviors are organized around this idea. If you work at Lou and Harry's or at 24/7, you know what is expected of you. Your focus is on the customers, meeting their needs. At Lou and Harry’s the core idea is to provide a pleasing experience for the customer. “Pleasing” at this level is not table cloths and fine dining. It is speed, courtesy, cleanliness, and quality food for a good price. At 24/7 the core idea is doing whatever it takes to make the customer successful. They provide the right equipment at the right time. Speed, accuracy, and the ability to help a customer solve problems are key. These businesses live their core idea every day. Delighting the customer is the goal of every interaction. It is the reason for being in business. They make money because they are good at what they do.

Often people believe their core idea is to make a profit. This has companies skimping on service and quality. Do you really want to do business with someone whose main goal is to make money off of you? At the same time, we are usually happy to pay for great service and products, and for careful attention to our needs. Profits are a result of great service and products along with sound business practices.

In many organizations, people don't know what the goal is. Their core idea is to get through the day, please the boss, further a personal agenda, or to earn a paycheck. Stephen Covey's research from his book, The Eighth Habit, stated that 80 % of American workers don't know what their company's goals are. He used the metaphor of soccer team saying that if the American workplace was a soccer team, only two players on the team would know which goal is theirs.

Did you have a successful day in your work today? Many people cannot answer this question. To most, successful means that they liked their day. But if there was no goal, no core idea guiding their efforts, how do you know if you were successful? The question must be asked in every organization: "What do we want to come of this? " Once we know what we are seeking, our goal, we can then evaluate if we are successful. Without criteria for success, all we have are personal agendas, general confusion, and chaos. In truth, many organizations don't know who they are or why they exist. They really don't know if they are successful or not. Often they judge their success based on whether or not they made money.

The core idea concept is to focus our attention on what is really important. A teacher may have the goal of getting through the lesson, but that is not a core idea. A teacher’s core idea might be “making students successful” or “inspiring students to learn and grow.”. You then structure your behavior, your classroom, and your day to live the core idea. You may or may not get through the lesson. The important thing each day is whether you helped students succeed or you inspired them.

A physician may have a goal to see X number of patients today, but that is not a core idea. The core idea might be to enhance the well-being of every patient. This means that everything in that physician’s practice is focused on enhancing patient well being. This includes behavioral interactions, the physical environment, how the staff treats patients and each other, and wait time. Everything is looked at through the lens of: “Does this enhance the well-being of our parients?”

Whether you are employed or self-employed, do you have a core idea that guides you? In other words, do you have an idea, expressed simply, that describes what is really important in what you do? If not, why not create one? An effective core idea, practiced every day, will serve to structure more consistent service and quality. When two or more people share that core idea, it increases its power. Our combined focus and energy will lead to exceptional performance. When an idea like this takes over an organization, positive action becomes the norm. At Lou and Harry’s, people don’t have to think about giving great service. They just do it. At 24/7, staff members can’t conceive of not returning a phone call with lightning speed. Customer responsiveness is a way of life, and anything short of that would be unthinkable.

Look at your day and ask, “What do I want to come of this?” Look at your work or your organization, and ask again, “What do I want to come of this?” Be clear about who you are and what you do. In my work as a coach and a speaker, I help my clients to achieve the highest good for all concerned. I measure every decsion I make by the question: “Will this lead to this individual or this group, and this organization realizing its highest good?”

Find your core idea. Choose simple wording to express whatever is central to what your work is about. Use your core idea as a guide to everything you say and do. You will find that everything you say or do either helps you achieve the core idea, or it doesn’t. Anything that contradicts your core idea should be let go. It is a distraction. Practice every day and you will create consistency. Measure the success of each day by how well you have practiced your core idea. Never use the core idea as a stick to beat people with. Let it be a possibility that you are achieving. Constantly practice and talk about it. It will transform your organization.

“Leadership is the wise use of power. Power is the capacity to translate intention into reality and sustain it.”
Warren G. Bennis

Author's Bio: 

William Frank Diedrich is a speaker, author and executive coach. His books include: The Road Home, 30 Days to Prosperity, and Beyond Blaming. Bill offers e-classes in prosperity (free with purchase of the book), Creating Your Ideal Relationship, and Leadership Development. For information on his work and his free products go to or