What managers can learn from Saints

In April 2014 the Catholic Church canonised two saints.  Both Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII were inducted into the catholic hall of fame for their acts as exemplars of their religion.

The Catholic Church is one of the oldest institutions in the world.  Modern companies are lucky to survive 10-20 years, but this organisation has lasted for 2,000 years.  A big part of all religions is the worship of people who do extraordinary things, or who other people will follow.

Let's have a look at the process, and you will see some lessons which could be learned in our own companies.

Importantly, a saint is to be publicly venerated by the whole Church.

When declaring a saint, the church looks at:

  • The life of a person. It looks at what the person did, how he/she reacted to the events of life, and
  • Is the person still alive in the faith of the people?

The nomination comes up from a local branch (diocese) and then makes its way up to Rome.

Now the question of miracles.  The recognition of a miracle verifies that the person is with God and has intercessory power with Him. The Blessed person does not grant the favour herself but intercedes with God on behalf of those who ask the favour.

Here are some lessons from the sainthood process.  Start from the end.

  1. Have a good idea of why you would recognise stars (e.g someone for others to look up to or emulate).
  2. Design a prize (a way to celebrate the stars)
  3. Make a big deal of "publicly venerating" them.  So celebrate!
  4. Have a defined process for recognition.
  5. Get nominations from everyday people.

Whether or not you are religious, you have to admire how religions recognise their stars, whether it be the Jewish Tzadik, the Islamic Mu'min, the Hindu rishi or guru, and the Buddhist arhat or bodhisattva.

In business, we should think beyond the token employee of the month, or employee of the year, we could go further.

Qantas - 10 ways to fix a company without spending money

My Australian readers know the topic well, others will know similar companies.

Qantas is in a vortex of trouble and blaming everything from taxes, to exchange rates and unions.

They have never blamed themselves for their malaise.  Sound familiar?

I am a loyal frequent flyer, but…...

Although I understand there are limitations on budgets which affect the ability to provide new aircraft and so forth, the following measures would cost next to nothing.

I'm a Gold Frequent Flyer so I get treated a little differently, but I'm also one of their prized frequent travellers.

    1. Penthouse to the Doghouse

I get treated like a rock star at the airport with express lines and premium boarding, but once I get on board the ‘specialness’ disappears.  On a recent flight from Singapore I had free Martini’s in the lounge but then could not get a drink on-board (more on that later).

Don’t pick customers up and then dump them down. 

    2. Be precise with pricing

When I make a booking you charge me $7 dollars per passenger for a credit card transaction.  We all know the credit card fee is a fixed percentage of cost, usually 2%.  On a $350 fare it works out the same.  On a more expensive fare the airline misses out, and on a cheaper fare the customer overpays.  To the customer it always feels like they are being gouged.  So Qantas is potentially ripping itself off, and making the customers feel ripped off.

Look out for Lose-Lose scenarios.

    3. Technology - Do it well or not at all

Their phone app is terrible and all it seems to do is sell other services.  It’s become unusable.

Either do your technology with customer utility in mind or don’t do it.   

Don’t turn technology into an excuse for an ad.

    4. Keep up with the Jones’s 

The facilities in competitor lounges is simply better, especially things like segregated checkin at Virgin Sydney (and Qantas strangely has it in Auckland and Singapore but not Australia).

Customers notice what the competition is doing and are easily tempted.

    5. Don’t bore me

The first time you go to the lounge it’s awesome.  The second time OK, then after years of travelling, when you see the same food every day, you stop using the lounge and start heading into the food hall.  The special stuff has to stay special. 

Don’t confuse consistency with boring.

    6. I’m always important

As a frequent flyer, the lounge and boarding experience make me feel special.  Sometimes on an international flight I will get greeted as a Gold flyer.  When this happens (as it usually does with their partners like Emirates) I feel a little warm glow from being special.  But the problem is that it happens rarely on Qantas.  Once it happens, I expect it all the time.

When it doesn’t happen (usually), I feel a little less than ordinary, rather than special.

The same happens with express customs clearance cards.  Sometimes frequent flyers receive them, but most times not.  They will provide one if asked, but that’s not the point.

Once a customer is made to feel extra special, you have to keep it up.

    7. The free extras should not be rubbish

Most free things are terrible. On Qantas, the food is not free. I pay handsomely for food with my ticket.  So I don’t appreciate receiving something with the same quality as free.  If you have ever flown into Sydney at 6am and greeted with the oily tasteless concrete Danish served with orange juice, then you will know.   

    8. Either you are premium or you are cheap

There is no in-between.  

It’s well known now that to get a drink on Qantas is almost impossible.  There is one alcoholic drink with the meal and then just water.  Again, I paid for full service and expect at least to be asked. Don’t make me feel like Oliver Twist.  On a recent flight I pushed the call buzzer for a wine after dinner and had to wait 21 minutes for someone to answer the call, after which all I got was huff and puff from the staff member. (Yes I timed it because I run a Mystery Shopping company) 

    9. Give a massively valuable FREE freebie

I used to get upgrades.  Now - never.

Here's a big tip Qantas.  Occasionally upgrade your frequent-flyers to business class. It costs nothing and generates a mass of goodwill. It also won't affect your business class bookings. It’s such a wonderful surprise, and usually gets spread on social media in seconds (there’s nothing like posting a Business Class seat photo).

Apparently policy is to upgrade only if Economy is full.  Well Economy is rarely full anymore because you dropped the ball on all the things above.

All businesses should look for massively valuable goodies which cost next to nothing.

10. Zero Cost is not zero impact

Just because these measures don't cost money, does not mean they will not have an impact.  I now fly Emirates planes when I book on Qantas.  Thanks to their codeshare I fly an awesome airline and it costs me no more, though I'm sure it costs Qantas a lot.  These free fixes matter.  Just don't get too complicated and you'll be fine dear Qantas.


My disclaimer is that I don’t run an airline, I run a Mystery Shopping company.  What I know from doing over 30,000 evaluations per year is that customers crave consistency, but the companies who need my services most are the ones who don’t use them.  I wonder if that's why they keep bouncing around like a plane in a storm?  

Love you Qantas, loyally yours… for now.

One thing which will kill your business

The one thing that kills businesses is the arrogance of its managers.

I am not talking about their attitude or the way they carry themselves.  I’m talking about being so arrogant they think they know everything.

Me: “So - do you test the quality of your product?”

Prospect: “What do you mean?”

Me: “That it’s fresh, cooked properly, and presented right”

Prospect: "Oh yeh we care about quality, but we already know what quality is being delivered”

Me: “Oh really?  How”

Prospect: “We have great fail-safe systems.  The franchisees cannot stuff it up”

Me: “But what if they do? I’m sure you’d agree that would be a good place to start?”

Prospect: “No - we’re good with all that"

Me: “Goodbye”

I can’t help people who believe their own bullshit.  It's an excuse for laziness.

I’ve come across phone systems that don’t work, stores selling competitor products, and even stores which don’t exist (but should).

Do you want to know what’s going on in your business?  

Challenge the things you “know” to be true before you look for unknown problems which may not even exist.

One size does not fit all

If you are different to your neighbour, and your brother, then why should you be treated the same in a store?

When I say treated the same, I mean sold to or served.

I like things shiney and bright, my brother likes them practical and economical.

When you talk to me, you use the language of excitement.  When you talk to him, it's the language of practicality.

So why do most surveys and mystery shopping programs measure the same things, assuming everyone is the same?

The reason is - because companies down't know their own customers.


Never Start a survey with these words.

A survey is more important than the questions.

I recently received an email from the local University looking for people to answer a survey.  The survey heading was this:

"Now it's our turn to listen - please complete this survey"

This automatically says to people that listening is not your default position.

A survey is more than the questions.  It projects your brand.