We often hear that marketers need to work with customers, consultants and other vendors to come up with situations where everyone benefits or wins. I recently heard a story that came from the east, yes even further east than New Jersey, that might get you thinking.
There was a rich older man who passed away and left all of his worldly possessions to his three sons. His “wealth” consisted of 17 camels. He gave half of his wealth to his oldest son, a third to his middle son and a ninth to his youngest. After the father was buried, the sons sat down and started to divide up the inheritance. The process got very confusing in that half of 17 was like 8 and a half (you see where this is going). The rest of the process was also messy and it turned out that, in order to make its work, there needed to be a lot of dead camels.
At just this point, a consultant/vendor came into the town and saw the dilemma the three sons faced. They asked him how he could possibly help and he said they could have his camel and that might help. The sons were amazed how easy it was now that they had 18 camels. The oldest got half or 9 camels, the middle son got a third or 6 camels and the youngest got his one ninth or 2 camels. Everyone was happy, but when they added up the camels that each son got it came to 17. They exclaimed, “Now that we have all gotten our share we still have one camel left over.” The consultant/vendor said, “That is my camel and now I will take it back.”
Ok, I recognize that sometimes we consultants want more than the one camel back but that would mess up the story a little. The point is that everyone wins. Nobody gets taken advantage of and with some creativity, simple solutions emerge. Sometimes it just takes a little outside thinking or, as they say, some help from your friends.
It is a clever story that should get you thinking. Whether you are working with customers or with your consultants/vendors it is really important that everyone is adding value well beyond what everyone could do for themselves. I always viewed my vendors as people who could advance my career because in the areas they were helping they were much more informed than I was and could teach me while growing my business. This was also my view when talking with both providers and payers. In the specific area I was working, I always needed to figure out how I could make their jobs or their work with patients easier and/or more productive.
To me the real point of the story is not that the outsider was able to get his camel back but that he also walked away with the gratitude and respect of the three brothers. They would always remember him and I am sure would welcome his help and advice every time he came to town. Not only would they continue to work with him but I am sure the camel story would spread throughout the area and others would be eager to work with the outsider as well.
Take the time to carefully consider who you surround yourself with as it is clearly a reflection on you and your business acumen. That said, it is just as important that when representing your company with customers that they also feel it is a privilege to be able to work with you. Constantly evaluate.