I’m pretty much a break dancer. Started in the sixth grade. That kind of thing always stays with you. You know what they say, “You can take the breaker out of the hood, but you can’t take the hood off the wind breaker unless it zips off, but even then it’s kind of a pain in the butt so you just leave it on.” I sucked at break dancing. But I was a breaker because Chess King made parachute pants accessible to the upper-lower middle class.
My brother, Bob, was a Bruce Effing Lee. He could kick my ass. Not because he knew anything about martial arts – he was just taller and had a longer reach. But he was a martial artist because Spencer’s Gifts put nunchucks and throwing stars at a price point such that the 16-year-old stoner demographic could easily acquire a pair.
Well intentioned but perpetually out-of-shape people are the sustaining force of the Body For Life book industry, the Golds Gym membership business, and the brightly-colored padded dumbbell sector – not because of who these consumers are, but because of who they want to become.
What if you, as a CPA, discovered on behalf of your customers who they want to become and designed every aspect of your firm to enable them to realize this transformation? Just think about it. Did you pee yourself? No? Then you don’t get it yet.
Disney discovered that little girls want to become princesses, and it makes billions of dollars transforming little girls into princesses. Who are your customers? Who do they want to become? How can you get them there?
This is totally not my idea. (Brace yourself.) Michael Schrage is Khan Noonien Singh, I’m Mr. Chekov, this idea is a ceti eel, and HBR Ideacast Episode 305, “Who Do You Want Your Customers To Become?” was my space helmet. (I know you don’t get the reference. Click on the hyperlinks. Stop judging me.)
We talk a lot about innovation in THRIVEal. This is another path to innovation.
The transformation business is a pretty damn good business. I’d like to quote Paul Dunn and Ron Baker’s book The Firm of the Future, where Ron Baker quotes Joseph B. Pine II and James H. Gilmore’s book The Experience Economy, where Pine and Gilmore were most likely quoting Steve Jobs because all quotes should come from Steve Jobs. “Transformations cannot be extracted, made, delivered, or even staged; they can only be guided. Being in the transformation business means charging for the demonstrated outcome the aspirant achieves–the transformation itself–not for the particular activities the company performs.” Transformations are more valuable than experiences, services, goods, and commodities; and you should price transformations accordingly.
Discovering who your customers want to become is a lot like the journey to discover your “why.” Since I’m a self-absorbed prick, my “why” is all about me: to be unexpectedly entertaining and to make boring stuff funny. Discovering who your customers want to become turns your “why” outward and makes it altruistic. Combining “who your customers want to become” with “why you do what you do” is like putting your “why” on steroids. And not in the shrink-up-your-balls kind of way, or the back acne way, but in the effortlessly cripple your competition like Jean-Claude Van Damme in Bloodsport kind of way.
My customers are accountants. They want to be confident and gregarious with a great sense of humor. It’s going to take more than nunchucks and parachute pants to get them there. Or not.
Greg was born in Akron, Ohio, in the shadow of the Firestone tire factory. He began to swim competitively when he was eight, swimming for the Mountlake Terrace Lemmings. He graduated in 1995 from the University of Washington with a math degree. He chose math for the ladies. After serving ten-years as an 8th grade math teacher, he decided it was time for a career change, mainly because he “couldn’t stand those little bastards.” He began his accounting career with a local CPA firm in Orem, Utah, where he consistently failed the QuickBooks ProAdvisor advanced certification exam. Greg currently works as the Controller for the Utah Valley Physicians Plaza. He lives in Provo, Utah, with his wife and two kids. He enjoys eating maple bars, drinking Diet Pepsi, and swearing.