Silicon Valley State of Mind, a blog by John Weathington, "The Science of Success"
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Silicon Valley State of Mind

Tips, thoughts, and advice based on the consulting work of John Weathington, "Silicon Valley's Top Information Strategist."

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The Chinese Connection

Posted by on in Innovation
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My favorite place for Chinese food is Orient Express, in San Ramon. There’s nothing fancy about the decor, there’s really no dining area (just two or three tables inside), and sometimes there’s a long line going outside the door. The food is pretty good, but definitely not fine dining. Most of the food has been sitting in warming dishes waiting for take out, although you can phone ahead for one of the specials.

The reason why I love this place is because of the relationship I have with the people in the restaurant. They run a very small operation in a busy area of San Ramon (well, busy for San Ramon), so it’s not hard to get to know people, especially the people working the counter like Thomas and Michelle. Although they officially close at 9p, there have been many times when I’ve stopped in around 9:30p after a long day with clients, excited to see the doors still open, and happy to take whatever they have left over.

Last night was one of those nights. I pulled into the parking lot around 9:15p, and noticed someone just a few seconds in front of me, walk in ahead. By the way he was looking over the available food, I could tell he wasn’t familiar with the place. Thomas and the crew had already started to clean up, so there were only a few dishes in the warmers, and some other packaged food up on the counter. Among the packaged food on the counter was my absolute favorite, Salt and Pepper Chicken. The Salt and Pepper Chicken at Orient Express is nothing less than awesome. It’s chopped, battered and deep fried with generous portions of salt and jalapeño peppers. Yum!

Thomas was working behind the counter. He acknowledged the gentleman in front of me, then gave me a big smile and shouted, “Hello, John!” As Thomas reviewed the menu options with the gentleman in front of me, he touted all the wonderful dishes in the warmers, and with quick stare and a wink at me, politely “underemphasized” the Salt and Pepper Chicken which he knew I liked. It was already wrapped up on the counter, so even if the customer knew how good it was, he really couldn’t see it that well. As the nice gentleman walked out with his Kung Pao chicken, Thomas smiled at me and said, “I’m guessing you want the Salt and Pepper Chicken, right?” Needless to say, it was a great night for dinner and Big Brother (that’s another story).

Having a good relationship with your customers and suppliers is not taken serious enough in business these days. There are three dimensions to innovation and “product” development when considering your offerings: products, services and relationships. Most companies focus just on products and services; however, relationships are the most critical of the three and they’re often completely overlooked. When it comes to Chinese food, I’m not going anywhere but Orient Express. Do your customers feel the same way about you?

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John Weathington is President and CEO of Excellent Management Systems, Inc., a management consultancy that helps people and organizations achieve strategic results. His Fortune 500 clients include Hewlett Packard, PayPal, Sun Microsystems, Hitachi Data Systems, Cisco and Visa where he managed and mobilized their enterprise data strategy, a comprehensive program of 150 projects, over 45 initiatives, and 5 major tracks. John can be found on many social media sites including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+.


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Guest Sunday, 15 September 2019