Big Fish, Little Fish, Cardboard Box

March 02 2018
big fish little fish cardboard box

Whether you’re a B2C or B2B operation, or a ‘big fish or a little fish’ in your pond, what do you believe to be paramount to your success or growth?

Is it innovation? Is it strong leadership? Is it your uniqueness, or maybe the strength in your margins?

Sure, all of the above are great assets to boast and can greatly influence success and growth in business. Perhaps you can ‘lay your hat’ on a combination of them being your reasons for your success or self-confidence. After all, they can all be measured relatively easily and be attributed to the financial rewards and progress you experience.

But hang on! Can we all sit back comfortably in our Director’s chair and confidently rub our hands together at the face of a glowing spreadsheet and piece of PR alone?

What is the true measure of success and growth?

apple measuring tapeI’m sure you know the true ‘bottom-line’ of your success (perceived or otherwise) in fact lies in your character and your reputation. Those are the two most valuable commodities there are. However, you can’t forecast those on your spreadsheet and they can’t be bought or sold. But you do have to make that your overarching measure of success.

“You don’t have to choose between doing good and doing well. It’s a false choice, today more than ever” Tim Cook, CEO, Apple Inc.

Who are the caretakers of your character and reputation? (The answer isn’t….. YOU!).

Whilst you can go a long way to influence your good reputation, the only things that cement or trash your company’s ambitions and virtues is the behaviour and emotional response of your end-users and front-line staff. ‘People Power’ if you will.

But can you be confident your principles are being delivered and your values being shared consistently and effectively? Is having good intentions and documented parables and laws your staff have to follow enough?

In the world of business and personal branding, repetition and trust is key.

Going back to Tim Cook’s earlier quote, as leader and CEO of Apple (one of the most admired technology businesses in the world), he understands what he needs to aspire to! He not only wants his company to be synonymous with great design, innovation and prestige but furthermore he states he wants to “enrich people lives”. A genuine statement maybe – but that’s setting the bar very high and whilst he sits on his throne in Silicone Valley, it’s his army of worker bees, his chosen ‘brand champions’ who are responsible for following his mantra.

army of beesLet’s imagine his army of bees are doing exactly what they are supposed to. But let’s also assume, it doesn’t always go to plan. Technology fails, people fail, and processes fail – it’s a fact of life and business. Does Tim Cook and his shareholders really understand what might be manifesting beneath the profits and the hype they preach. Are they listening to the doubters and the disillusioned, or just hearing the praise?

Emotions are a fickle thing and can’t be measured or managed from a spreadsheet or a boardroom office. It’s all very well having confidence in your approach and your team, but the saying “you can’t please all of the people all of the time”, to me frankly smacks of shrugging responsibility – almost assuming that an unhappy customer is somehow inherently difficult to please. Rubbish!! It doesn’t matter if, how or why you let someone down, it’s what you do to rectify the situation that makes all the difference.

Is success your greatest asset, or your greatest hindrance?

If both actual and perceived success not only lies in the value of your product or service but in the minds and mouths of your influencers and amplifiers, does it become harder to maintain the bigger and more successful we get? Perhaps the answer is both yes and no.


slingshotYour size has little bearing in the eyes of your customers. Whether you’re a big fish, or a little fish, Goliath or David, taking your eye off the detail within the bigger picture of your success, will likely get you on the wrong side of a small rock hurtling through the air, aimed to hit you where it hurts.

For higher-ticket items and big brands – there is arguably a greater perceived level of expectation from consumers. But in reality, if I bought a generic cigarette lighter for one pound and it failed to light the camp fire I was relying on for warmth and food in the cold wilderness, I shudder to think of the expletives I’d use let alone the larger consequences of such a thing happening.

Ok, so there are a lot of differences between a cigarette lighter and an A Class Mercedes for example. More moving parts that are vulnerable to going wrong for one. But does that mean consumers should lower their expectations for a generic lighter manufacturer? Of course not. I invested in the lighter in good faith and trusted in its inherent value, regardless of cost.


The higher you climb the ladder of success in business, the harder it is to maintain balance, and the further it is to fall. Not to mention how difficult it becomes to make sure every rung on that ladder is not without fault or weakness. With success comes vulnerability which is why many call centres have Supervisors listening in to the conversations of their staff, or why we have secret shoppers, or why we live in a democracy even!

Now do you see why I titled this blog, ‘Big Fish, Little Fish, Cardboard box’? No? Fair enough!

Allow me to explain. It’s intended to mean, it doesn’t matter what you say or who you think you are, or how simple or complex your product or service is, we are all the same in the eyes of a happy or unhappy customer. We are all empty, meaningless cardboard boxes on the outside until we prove we are anything more on the inside.

Concentrate on delivering the contents of your ‘cardboard box’ with consistency and care and measure your success wisely… or god forbid, even the best of us end up living in one!

Rest assured, at PDX, we consistently handle your precious boxes with the utmost care and attention. After all it’s not only our reputation that depends on it.

PDX | Creating an Environment for your Success

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