Business Lesson 1 from Mr. Blandings

Early in my career, a wise and seasoned executive told me he couldn’t see the future, but there was one thing he could predict with great accuracy.

Every major technology project took twice as long and cost three times as much as originally projected. Or vice versa.

He was right then, he's right now. In fact, skip the word “technology” and his observation is still completely on target.

For a funny, smart and entertaining look at this phenomenon, watch the 1948 film, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. It stars Cary Grant and Myrna Loy, and it’s packed with talented supporting actors.

The plot line is simple.

The Blandings family wants to leave their tiny, crowded city apartment and move to a house with space for kids and animals. To appreciate the priceless humor and wry insights, you must watch the film.

Our mission here is to focus on business lessons. One interesting theme woven throughout is the complexity of the customer-provider relationship. Let’s concentrate on just one scene, near the end of the film.

The house is basically finished, so Mr. Blandings and the architect are reviewing final bills from builders and contractors. Every bill is higher than originally projected.

The Blandings had set the upper limit for their home at around $15,000. Now, as they review the final costs, it’s clear the finished price is closer to $47,000.

Why? Every single change in the plan added time, increased costs or both. The customer was inexperienced and optimistic. The architect was torn between pleasing his customer and cautioning about costs. The builder and contractors wanted to do good work, please the customer and make a buck.

It’s a classic dilemma, one every business owner and salesperson can relate to. You want your customers – all of them – to be happy with the products and services you provide. Accomplishing this basic goal can be a challenge.

What’s the lesson? The only way to make your customers truly happy is to set, manage and recalibrate expectations at every stage of the project or sales process.

Yes, it takes time, diligence and patience. Yes, it can be frustrating for you and the customer. Yes, it can raise touchy issues in the midst of a challenging project or product delivery process. Yes, it’s easy to sacrifice this step in the press of day-to-day business.

Don’t do it.

Whether you’re building a house, providing a service, or delivering a custom product, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House offers a couple hours of enjoyment and some humorous insights into the customer-provider relationship.

Watch it and learn.

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Related
Business Lesson 2 from Mr. Blandings
Business Lesson 3 from Mr. Blandings
Business Lesson 4 from Mr. Blandings
Business Lesson 5 from Mr. Blandings
Business Lesson 6 from Mr. Blandings
Sell More: 4 Key Steps (tips on setting/managing expectations)

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