As we enter our second year as stewards of the Cayman Compass, we are in the process of distributing dozens of copies of a book to our staff because we want to incorporate its message into every fiber of our organization going forward.
The book is called “Customers for Life” and was written by Carl Sewell in 1990 and updated with additional chapters since then.
There’s a bit of a backstory to this little classic that focuses on building (or rebuilding) a business around the core concept of customer service.
We first encountered Carl Sewell in Dallas, Texas, where he was serving on the board of D Magazine, which we edited. He had inherited from his father a well-known Cadillac dealership, called Sewell Village Cadillac, but the issue, at least for Carl, was that there were three Cadillac dealerships in Dallas and his was in third place – something he would never be comfortable with.
His sales were then about $10 million; today they are more than a billion, and Carl presides over a network of luxury car dealerships that is among the biggest in the world. His once-diminutive Cadillac dealership is now the largest in America. And he did it all by providing over-the-top customer service that has become legendary. (Stanley Marcus, founder of Neiman Marcus department stores, says this about “Customers for Life”: “If you don’t learn from this book, it’s your fault.”)
On a trip to Tokyo, Carl encountered an unfamiliar word again and again. The word was “ichiban,” (itch-e-bon) which means “number one,” “the biggest,” “the best.” That’s what the Japanese, and certainly Carl Sewell, aspired to.
There’s another Japanese word which we’re familiar with – it’s “kaizen” – which roughly translated means “daily improvement.” That is a concept we all should commit to.
The Compass is a good newspaper, getting better. Someone complimented us recently by suggesting it has become the best in the Caribbean, but, even if true, that is not nearly good enough.
During our first year, we’ve made some obvious improvements, such as upgrading the paper stock we print on, putting more emphasis on our photography and graphics presentation, editing tighter and proofreading more carefully. We’ve added newsroom staff and will continue to do so.
More importantly, we’ve engaged in substantial, and hopefully responsible, editorial campaigns that, frankly, circumstances thrust upon us. We had no plan to editorialize to the extent we did on the National Conservation Law, but the accelerated timeline of the legislation left us no other option.
Likewise, the fires at the landfill focused our attention on a matter of such consequence to the health and economic well-being of the country that we could not in good editorial conscience remain silent. We will not abandon our interest in this issue until it is satisfactorily resolved.
The most important – and most challenging – issue we will address in the remainder of 2014 (and beyond) is the state of our public schools. Over the years, successive governments have spent far too much money to buy far too much illiteracy, and accountability and results have been absent from the process. The time is past due for these islands to declare with one voice, including our editorial voice, that “recess is finally over” in our public school system.
For our country, our schools – and certainly our newspaper – let us collectively commit ourselves to nothing short of “ichiban”!