Who Gave You the 'Cheese?'

Who Gave You the ‘Cheese?’

Featured on Forbes.com  on 3/21/2013 @ 7:34PM

By Panos Mourdoukoutas, Contributor: global markets, business and investment strategy

Customers are Ignoring You
In his best selling parable ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ Spencer Johnson uses “cheese” as metaphor for all the good things you want to have in life— good job, money, possessions, a good job, health, or spiritual peace of mind. Then he goes on to explore how the characters in the parable deal with an unexpected change – in his illustration, movement of the “cheese” from its usual location.

When it comes to the corporate world, there is an even more fundamental question to be asked: Who gave you the “cheese, in the first place?”

Who provides the jobs for each and every member of your organization; from the doorman and the attendant of the front desk to the engineer in the corporate lab and the CEO in the corporate suit?

In the old days, the corporate bureaucrat or the union boss provided the “cheese,” especially if you lived in the former Soviet Union and China, or worked for a government protected monopoly or oligopoly in the US and Europe.

But nowadays it’s the consumer, the immediate or ultimate customer of each and every capitalist enterprise, who gives you the cheese.

And the consumer is the one who can take it away. That’s why you should make sure that you make the consumer happy, by providing the right goods and services.

The problem, however, is that some business leaders do not fully understand what it takes to keep the customer providing the cheese to the corporate ship. That’s why Scott Weiss, in his soon to be released book DARE:Accepting the Challenge of Trusting Leadership, prompts these leaders to put aside the leadership hat and put on the consumer hat. Be a consumer.

“For a few moments, I’d like you to put your leadership hat aside and only wear the one that every single one of us dons at least hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times each year. Be just a consumer. A customer. It should be easy to think like one because you are one, all the time. Next, I dare you to recall the last time that a transaction—for tennis shoes, an insurance policy, a vacation, or a piece of software—left you more than dissatisfied. Think about a time that you felt especially betrayed, misled, or cheated. Recall your anger, your frustration, and your embarrassment. “

I’d like to take this suggestion a little further. I would suggest fostering a consumer mind-set throughout the organization, by posting a “consumer manifesto” on the company site that reads as follows:

Dear Corporate Member,

I’m the consumer, your immediate or ultimate customer, the beginning and end of everything we do. Every activity, every function, and every operation your enterprise performs.

The beginning and end of  R&D;

the beginning and end of production;

the beginning and the end of branding and marketing;

the beginning and the end of warehousing;

the beginning and end of distribution;

the beginning and end of  retailing;

the beginning and the end of sales and customer service;

the beginning and end of  financing;

and the beginning and the end of accounting and control. 

The corporate labs, offices,  factories, warehouses, distribution centers, retail outlets, customer service, repairing outlets, and finance and accounting departments exist because of me, to serve and accommodate my needs and desires.

I’m the beginning and end of everything your partners and suppliers and their own partners and suppliers do; every activity, every function and every operation they perform; their own factory and office facilities; their own warehouses and retail outlets; and their own finance and accounting departments exist because of me.


Dear Corporate Member, 

I am your immediate or ultimate boss. I’m the one who pays your salary, bonuses and the healthcare and retirement benefits

I am the boss of your partners and suppliers, and the boss of their own partners and suppliers.

I keep all of them in business, and pay for their profits and for the salaries, the bonus, the health insurance, and the pension contributions.



I, the Consumer