In the midst of all kinds of sour economic news, I was wowed this week by two companies who exemplified a high workflow IQ and a deep commitment to efficiency and customer satisfaction. Clearly, they are innovating for two reasons: first to operate in as lean a fashion as possible; and second to make sure that their customers walk away smiling.
This Dallas-based company offered me a rental car in Southern California (normally one of the most expensive markets in the country) at $17 per day. Not $70 or $50 or even $35. I really should mention, we called to find the car 20 minutes before I needed it. Ever tried that before? That’s usually when “the other rental car companies” ream you for $100 or more per day. Advantage was lean and extraordinarily competitive. Call these people next time you need to rent a car! Mileage? Unlimited at no extra cost.
Second, they had one staff on-site at a slow time of day. Good staffing controls. Third, my car was within view (he parked it by the front door in a staging lot after we called) so I knew immediately what I was driving. Fourth, he mentioned that I could bring the car back empty (of gas) and they would sell me the gas at $3.61 per gallon when the gas stations in SoCal are selling gas at $4.25 per gallon. Rather than initialing and signing an 11×17 triplicate form (as usual), he neatly printed my contract out of the credit card printer on an efficient 2×8 slip of paper. I signed and walked away with a car in under 5 minutes. So many great examples of efficiency and competitiveness.
El Torito Restuarant
It just goes to show that workflow management and process improvement can and should find its way into any and every business. I had lunch at a SoCal eatery – El Torito. I love them because the food is authentic and everything is fresh. The space is always inviting and genuinely Mexican in decor. I walked in on a very busy lunch hour with only 30 minutes to spare before my meeting in Orange County. Keep in mind, this is a restaurant and not a fast-food joint. Within seconds, I was seated. Within a minute I had a menu and my server was off to get my Diet Coke. He returned with my drink, warm chips and fresh salsa. I placed my order and was eating in under 5 minutes. Throughout my lunch, he was courteous and returned to check on me twice. When it came time to pay, he processed my credit card within 30 seconds at my table. Needless to say, he got a good tip. What, I wondered, is happening in the kitchen to enable this kind of service? How, I wondered, is this place managed so that the hostess and wait-staff can be so polite and effective on a busy lunch hour? Their kitchen – I can assure you – has been designed with Lean principles in mind.
Preservation of the Heart & Innovation of the Body
Both of these companies embodied, each in some small way, how a company can have a heart – a core set of guiding values and a mission – that doesn’t change under environmental circumstances AND a willingness to innovate what they do and how they do it to meet demands and drivers. They understand that you can do both. Clearly, both were driven to overcome lulls in the market and peak times of the day to provide a superior product, service and to make sure I was happy.
Kudos to all of you who share this spirit of innovation today.