Kinko’s JTBD

When asked if he worried about Xerox vertically integrating, Kinko’s founder Pual Orfalea said ‘HAAHAHAHAH. No.’

It’s obvious with distance, hindsight, and present best practices that’s exactly what Xerox should have done. Move down the market, get closer to the customers, and let their purchase decisions drive product innovation. But Paul Orfalea just laughed.

And he’s right.

Xerox couldn’t have acquired Kinko’s because Xerox and Kinkos are two different businesses.

“We aren’t in the copy business. We are in the emotions business. We help people get jobs, make sales brochures, and celebrate the major moments of their lives.” – Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinko’s

People don’t want quarter-inch holes, the expression goes, they want to hang their damn vacation photos.

Orfalea figured that out and designed his organization around the idea. He empowered counterworkers to solve problems immediately. When customers came in worked up and stressed out about an errored order, the last they thing want to hear is ‘let me talk to my manager and see what we can do.’ No! An immediate refund and rushed redo was the solution, and it’s what Kinko’s did.

“Our customers didn’t particularly care how the work got done either,” Paul writes in Copy This,” But they cared passionately about obtaining relief, symbolized by the finished product.

Job to be done is a great theory for product development but it only works holistically. The Panera job is food and place. If either is ‘a mess’ then neither works. The things have to fit together as homeotelic systems. Actions A and B work toward the same goal.

Kudos to Kinko’s and Xerox for using the Rich Barton “Scrabble Letter” naming system. Orfalea credits the name of Kinko’s to his kinky hair and his mom noting that people don’t forget hard consonants, as our first is GooGoo Gaga.

Circuit Breaker Substack

“There are so many people working so hard and achieving so little.”

Andy Grove

Bob Moesta has one of the most impactful perspectives on achieving more, and on his podcast with Greg Engel discusses how to make better products, better services, and more successes.

Their Circuit Breaker podcast covers:

  • how and why to unpack jargon: our loyal customers will buy this innovative healthy snack
  • that your product is the mustard on the sandwich in the customer’s lives
  • big hires and little hires

And more.

The Circuit Breaker Podcast Substack is my tribute to the show. Subscribe for a certain job. But first…

The LEGO company is one of the most successful organizations ever. Spanning nearly one hundred years, war, factory fires (three!), expansions and depressions, currency conversions, and Nintendo et. al. the toy company has survived and thrived.

Throughout LEGO’s history, there’s always been a manager who thought: the toy is great and people will find out. Let them come.

Throughout LEGO’s history, there’s also been a manager who knows: we have to sell this thing. We go to them.

People were busy, people are busy, and people will always be busy.

That’s the job of the email: subscribe because you are busy and you want a reminder about last week’s episode, further details, and more JTBD goodies.

Open 24 Hours

What do you want? is the wrong question.

Customers speak in the language of problems.
Businesses speak in the language of solutions.

When Netflix asked customers what they wanted, the customers said more new releases. So Netflix bought more. Then they looked at the data.

Engineers compared churn rates for customers who got new movies quickly with those who didn’t and the results were indistinguishable.

What customers wanted were faster movies. If customers got a movie within a few days of returning the previous they were less likely to churn out than customers who had to wait longer. Bingo. Netflix’s solution wasn’t more new releases, it was shorter shipping times.

Good for Netflix – but what about us? What about businesses that don’t have data engineers?

“From 1984 to about 1987, I proselytized about the wisdom of staying open for 24 hours,” Paul Orfalea writes in Copy This. Orfalea was a unique manager.

Rather than spending time at the office, Orfalea was on the road talking to Kinko’s partners, customers, and anyone who found something that worked.

“I’d met a convenience store owner who found his overall sales jumped 50 percent when he decided to stay open for 24 hours. At first, the increase seemed like a mystery. His foot traffic wasn’t great during the overnight hours. But his customers liked knowing they could patronize his stores any time day or night. They never had to worry when he was open or closed.”

Bingo.

Kinko’s business wasn’t selling copies – it was managing emotions. Customers needed help. Kinko’s helped them get jobs, celebrate moments, or create the brochure that needed done yesterday. Being open 24 hours helped.

Black Friday JTBD

JTBD (vacuums, meals, multitools) exists to find the implicit motivator. Humans stink at admitting, acknowledging, and understanding the scope of our motivations. JTBD finds gaps between those shortcomings and the lived results.

“I’m going to go Black Friday shopping,” Krista told me, “as an excuse to get lunch with my girlfriend.”

It seems like shopping is shopping – but one distinction is experience or convenience. Are we doing something to get it done or doing something to have done it? Shopping as an excuse to get lunch is a different job than shopping for deals.

Happy Black Friday.

Robot vacuum innovation using JTBD

Robot vacuum innovation using JTBD

Too fast? Slow down. Too hot? Cool down. Too little? Add more. Too long to wait? Make it shorter. Maybe.

Waits are complainable for a couple of reasons. Fairness, if someone enters a line later but finishes sooner. Ambiguity, if the wait duration is unknown. Comfort, if there’s somewhere to sit, charge a phone, or entertain us, waits can be wonderful.

Not all problems have “symmetrical solutions”. Changing something else might change the main thing. Even better, sometimes something else is easier.

For instance, we bought a Roomba. It is loud. Rather, it is Loud AF.

Too loud? Make it quieter. Maybe. But loudness has layers like, how much noise I can hear. One change is quieter. Though that tradeoff makes it more expensive.

Another approach is to hear it less. The Roomba does just that! The vacuum has a scheduling feature and integrates with smart homes. Want a quieter Roomba? Run it when no one is home.

Asymmetry is at the heart of Alchemy. Rory Sutherland wants people to see that problems are asymmetrical and then use psychology (in this case, technology) to solve the problem in a new way.

The idea of symmetry is from Bob Moesta in episode 7 of the Circuit Breaker podcast. The idea of tradeoffs is from episode 2. One of the Roomba’s competitors is non-consumption, episode 13.

The Sandler Rules (a short review)

It is helpful to think of The Sandler Rules: 49 Timeless Selling Principles and How to Apply Them like Parenting Teens with Love and Logic. Both books suggest shifting from helicopter parent or pushy salesperson to more of a consultant. For Sandler it’s principle 39. 

For Sandler, for sales, the customer’s progress is all that matters. It’s not how hard you worked. It’s not the feature. It’s not what you think. It’s not the last time this happened. 

It’s. Just. The. Customer’s. Progress. 

To find that the salesperson must be honest, a contradiction to the caricatures. “When interacting with prospects and clients, your objective is to uncover the truth, even if it’s not something you want to hear.” 

One obstacle, ironically, on the path from honesty leading to truth is knowledge. You can know too much. So, act like a dummy (Rule 17). Remember, selling is not about telling (Rule 14). 

Doctoring is a helpful analogy. Dermatologists don’t digress into the sciences  – they diagnose damage. The sales system differs from the medical one and strictly comparing the two makes the man on the moon mistake, but the philosophy is the same. 

Author David Mattson does a nice job of collecting the principles and assigning interesting ideas to each. My favorites: 

  • Rule 2: Don’t spill your candy in the lobby. Get information don’t give it.
  • Rule 4: Explain ‘no’ is okay. Aim to uncover the truth – even if it’s something you don’t want to hear.
  • Rule 13: No mind reading, don’t assume and clarify vague responses.
  • Rule 14: “‘Selling’ is not about “‘telling.’”
  • Rule 22: Defuse bombs right away – bring up the problem.
  • Rule 27: “You can’t sell anybody anything, they must discover they want it.”
  • Rule 37: “All Prospects Lie, All the Time… but why, and about what.”
  • Rule 38: The problem they bring you is never the real problem, “diagnosis is the salesperson’s responsibility”.
  • Rule 41: Whatever is happening is your responsibility
  • Rule 48: A life without risk is a life without growth

Sandler was suggested in Bob Moesta’s book Demand Side Sales. This book is an aligned sales system to the JTBD approach. Rules 37 & 38 (“all prospects lie, all the time” & diagnosis is the salesperson’s job) fit well with the curiosity inherent in JTBD.

The Sandler Rules: 49 Timeless Selling Principles and How to Apply Them is a fast read, best for the JTBD curious and those looking for some sales support. 

Here’s the review for Parenting Teens…

And the JTBD series

Start with No (book review)

In his 2016 book, Never Split the Difference Chris Voss suggests Jim Camp’s, 2011 book, Start with No

To Voss, ‘no’ is progress. Too often ‘yes’ is said for appeasing purposes and ‘maybe’ means we haven’t clarified what’s important. But ‘no’ is firm, it’s progress. 

Camp explores this idea deeper. He, like Voss, dislikes win-win negotiations. First, they lead to unnecessary compromises. In an effort to let both sides ‘get something’ negotiators compromise too much and on the wrong things. A 10% discount in exchange for a longer contract is good only if it’s important. Too often, Camp writes, people compromise on things which don’t matter. 

Second, win-win is considered fair. Who judges what’s fair? There’s no master evaluator. There are ethics though. Camp’s model is analogous to sports. Prepare, train, and play as hard as you can within the rules for the full period of time. Once the event is over, shake hands and respect your opponent. 

Third is the idea Voss runs with, a ‘no’ is progress, it’s “a decision that gives everyone something to talk about.” 

If ‘no’ is so important, why write a book? This coulda been a tweet. 

Well, no. There’re better ways to get to ’no’. And this book is really about something else entirely.

Our second house was a for sale by owner. A nice family with a nice home. We sniffed around each other like dogs with our initial questions and when asked about his timeline for building their next house the owner said, ‘I’m in no rush, I’ve got a house now’. 

That was good. He conveyed un-neediness. Being needy is Camp’s first warning. Do. Not. Need. A. Deal. Both Camp and Voss frame themselves against the classic negotiation book, 1981’s, Getting to Yes. Their books, they say, highlight what GtY gets wrong. Fair. But Getting to Yes presents the BATNA: best alternative to a negotiated agreement. That’s essential to un-neediness. 

The heart of un-needines, and of good negotiations is the secret message of the book. Start with No is really about our ego

Being needy is ego. Camp’s second rule is to act like Columbo. Disarm the adversary. In other words, put ego aside. Don’t try to be impressive, smart, or IN CHARGE. Don’t elucidate and don’t use words like elucidate. Camp warns about trying to be liked (chapters 2, 3), to be smart (6), or only talking about your side (4, 7, 8, 9). 

It’s hard to Start with No when you start with yourself.

The role of ego varies in size and scope. A successful negotiator finds the right balance of their own and their adversary’s point of view. This is the root of Camp’s system. It’s also the heart of copywriting and JTBD

Good negotiations are difficult and rare, Camp writes. That makes sense! To be a successful negotiator (according to Camp) we have to check our ego – a problem humans have been dealing with for hundreds of years. 

Camp tells a lot of ‘me’ stories. They’re about his big deal big deals, his awesome son, his business. It’s a little much (Voss’ stories are better). But hidden in those is a wonderful exploration of our ego and what we can do about it. 

Ego is tricky because like picking our nose, we don’t notice. It’s part of us. But when someone contrasts another way it makes us pause and consider that. For instance, “the most important behavioral goal and habit you can develop is your ability to ask questions” or “The self-image of the individual in the selling role traps him or her in a neediness mode and often leads to bad deals.” That frames our behavior and leads to questions like do I ask enough questions or am I needy because I want to feel smart, impressive, helpful, or whatever?

Camp’s book introduces his perspective, and that’s a good start to good negotiations.

Made up start up: Sandbags

A business succeeds by doing three things: creating something people want, getting it to them, and communicating the value. We call this: product, placement, promotion. 

Hey Siri, search ‘sandbag workout’

Workout sandbags are an interesting product because no one wants sandbags. The product is the sandbag but the JTBD is looking like this guy. Or at least more like this guy

Sandbags are also interesting because of their distribution opportunity. DTC opens opportunities blocked by traditional retail and neutralizes the TiVo problem. Channels like Amazon are okay, but shift the comparison metrics to price and stars. Companies that offer good-enough inexpensive options do well on Amazon – not a good tactic here. 

Lastly, the ‘people also ask’ sandbag section seeds great copywriting. These customer queries reveal wants. And customers want clarity. Searches are full of ‘program’ or ‘workout’ or ‘plan’. People are searching for what Bob Moesta writes are the ‘little hires’. Someone has bought a product, the ‘big hire’, but don’t quite know how to use it. That’s interesting too. 

People take action when their current situation stinks enough, a new solution looks good enough, there’s not too much ambiguity aversion, and their habits aren’t too strong. In his book Moesta puts it this way:

[Push of the malaise + Pull of the solution] > [Anxiety of ambiguity + Habit of the moment]

If LEFT > RIGHT then action occurs. 

Push: everyone wants to be in better shape. Like that guy? Who knows. 

Pull: sandbags are kinda weird, kinda bro. This may be an opportunity. 

Anxiety: people don’t know the ‘little hires’. Big opportunity. 

Habit: the workout (or not) of the moment. 

In Unacceptable, the book about the college admission scandal, parents hired help. The aiding advisor advertised high-school-test-prep ads at coffee shops and gyms near the schools. The customer wasn’t the student going to college, it was the parent paying for it. The consumer and ‘little hire’ were different from the customer and ‘big hire’. 

Successful products serve both groups. This makes the Unacceptable story tragically funny, some students didn’t know, what, or care what their parents did! 

This is spitballing. We’d also need to find: 

  • Where are the ready people? Maybe: in Google searches, Instagram fans, on Reddit forums, listening to personal development podcasts, and so on. What’s our version of the coffee shop?
  • What does ‘zombie revenue’ tell us about why people who buy it but don’t use it? 
  • What workout email helps customers make progress? 
  • Why are sandbags so bro? Is this an opportunity? 

Every business is a trade off. Doing one thing makes other things easier/harder. A team that plays offense fast has less time for their defense to recover. There’s a good way to sell sandbags. Is this it? Only the market knows. But it’s a good mental lift. 

The Mom Test (book review)

“It’s not anyone else’s responsibility to show us the truth. It’s our responsibility to find it. We do that by asking good questions.” – Rob Fitzpatrick 

The best way to think about The Mom Test (Amazon) is as a field manual for JTBD. Bob Moesta explains that JTBD is the balance of supply-side innovation and demand-side innovation. It is the innovation balance between what we can build and what the customers want. 

Often innovation is unbalanced, oriented more from the supply side. One way to judge is the language. Is a product or service explained in the company language or the consumer language? 

Oooooohhhhh. Got it. So just ask customers what they like and change it! 

Nope. 

Fitzpatrick’s book guides the shift from supply-focused to demand-focused. It’s an informational puzzle. 

To shift, an organization must focus on good questions. Fitzpatrick dubs good questions “The Mom Test”. If a question is so good even your mom answers truthfully it’s a good question. Failed startups often failed The Mom Test. Yes, our friends say, that’s a great idea

Good questions find signal in the noise, which comes in different flavors. 

  1. Social context. People will be nice, so questions must be precise. 
  2. Vague questions. Good questions focus on behaviors. Show me your calendar and checkbook types. 
  3. Lack of listening. Take a page from Chris Voss and reply with sounds like, looks like, and seems like

Good questions focus on aspects of a person’s life, not ideas about a product. 

One difference between Fitzpatrick and Moesta is the structure of these question-and-answer sessions. Moesta tells his interviewees to think of it as background for a documentary. He reduces the stakes and that leads to a better signal. Fitzpatrick suggests reducing the stake further. Any conversation can include The Mom Test. If you want specific conversations Fitzpatrick has advice for that too. 

To see if The Mom Test helps every conversation leads to a next step. There are no good or bad meetings, writes Rob, only successes or failures. 

A good examiner will get out of their own way. “You’re searching for the truth not trying to be right.” 

If you want to get better at creating things people want, or like a bayesian update to be more demand focused, check out 1,000+ reviews on Amazon.

Meth COGS

In profession problem solving we looked at how careers craft thinking. Let’s add DEA agents.

In his podcast with Jocko Willink, Joe Piersante talks about his time working in Arizona and dealing with hundreds of meth labs. If I told you I was in 500 labs, Joe says, it would be an understatement. Meth was the drug of choice in Joe’s region and between the cost to create, the large rural area, and proximity with Mexico it was difficult to police.

“It was bad at first because there was so many,” Joe says. It was too easy. What “put a dent into it,” was the 2005 Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act, which restricted access to pseudoephedrine, a precursor chemical to meth.

The COGS increase changed the business model.

Later in his career and the episode Joe talks about his time in Afghanistan. “We would not go after the poppy farmers because they were made to grow the opium,” Joe said, “The Taliban came in and they had the biggest stick at the time. It was a case of ‘you’re going to grow this or you’re going to get killed.'”

There were no better incentives to offer this group of laborers. “We knew they weren’t reaping the benefits so we tried to find the people getting the money.”

A lotta problems are multi-dimensional. Think about the field of addiction, said David Nutt, it’s about the drug, the person, and the society. Each of those is a lever. Profession problem solving is too. How would an economist solve this? How would a marketer? How would a coder? Each leads to a different island in the archipelago of thought. DEA agents think a bit like business owners, and we can add this approach to the set.

I also learned what Smurfing is/was, a unique JTBD.