Wednesday Words

To Go Where Your VisionPoints, a few inspiration points for you and your business.

Goldman Sachs’ history began in New York City when a German immigrant, Marcus Goldman, opened a one-room office on Pine Street in 1869.
—Goldman Sachs’ corporate website

Cue the violins. So begins the tale of a small business that got awfully big.

On Tuesday Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, asked executives of Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street giant charged with fraud, who spoke in front of the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, whether they believe they have a duty to act in the best interest of their clients.

She got several different and evasive answers, from which my favorite remarks are Joshua Birnbaum’s “Conceptually that doesn’t seem like an issue…” (Conceptually? How about actually? Doesn’t seem like an issue? That doesn’t seem to have any meaning…) and Fabrice “Fabulous Fab” Tourre’s “I do not believe we act as an investment advisor to our clients.”

Hm. Funny, Goldman’s website seems to think they do:

[In 2003 we added] financial counseling to our roster of traditional investment advisory services

We don’t usually get into current events here at MCE, but this stinky business has a very MCE angle to it if you look in the right light.

The truth is GS does not see the end-clients as their customers.

Here at Maximum Customer Experience this is both disturbing and in a sickening way, impressive. Goldman is not alone in their singular focus on the very real, and very Ideal Customer—the guy who’s buying their stock.

Whatever they may claim (from their website: “Helping high-net-worth individuals, their families and foundations build and preserve their financial wealth…”), Goldman is not there for those individuals and families, their so-called “clients.” I’m sure there are some mighty fine humans within the company, but like everybody else on Wall Street the company serves their stock price, not the folks who trust them as investment advisors. To invest with them without knowing you are a stock-price-pushing pawn is to be an even bigger sap than they think you are. We don’t like the result, but I think it’ll be awfully difficult to claim it’s illegal, since everyone from finance firms to big box stores is doing it.

[A slight tangent—surprise! Your favorite discount mega-corporation is not serving you. They’re serving people who own hundreds of thousands of shares in their company. People who thrill to layoffs (long lines, no help) and cost (quality)-cutting, and lobbyists who keep their execs out of messy Senate subcommittee hearings.]

So, yeah. That focus—to the utter exclusion of the individuals whose futures they’ve crushed—geez, I can almost like that. I can’t help commenting. The focus GS has on their Ideal Customer is pretty wow.

The people-crushing is revolting, and that’s the other aspect that I can’t help commenting on. Maximum Customer Experience starts with a singular focus on your Ideal Customer. And finishes with delivering eye-opening, expectation-busting delight to everyone who walks through your door.

Because anyone may know your Ideal Customer, and would love to buzz you up to them.

Because things may change, and they may become your Ideal someday.

And because it’s the right thing to do, fercryingoutloud.

Those individual end-clients of Goldman’s may not be the Ideal, but without them there won’t be a stock price to push up.

I guess I’m just thinking that when our companies finally get big, it sucks to forget who stood by loyally all those years while we were busy growing the company with their dollars. Not very Maximum, that.

I’m also thinking Senator Collins asked the wrong question. Senator Collins, you might have asked why call the individual investors “clients” at all?

Tools, I believe, is the word.


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson


P.S. YES! The last couple of years of sordid revelations from big businesses of all stripes have confirmed that it’s you and me—the little businesses—who can really make experiences Maximum and mean it, day after day. It’s your competitive edge over all these Big (and sometimes bad) Boys. Hooray for small business!