What’s Your Preference… The Past or The Future?

In the May-June 2011 issue of The Ohio State University’s Alumni Magazine, Jeff Robinson writes about his interview of Les Wexner, CEO of Limited Brands and one of today’s most successful business people. Earlier this year, Wexner and his wife, Abigail donated $100 million to OSU, the largest philanthropic gift in university history.

Jeff’s interview centered around Wexner’s belief that had it not been for Ohio State, he wouldn’t have gone to college, wouldn’t have met the friends and professors who so greatly influenced his life, and “probably wouldn’t have started a business.” He, like so many others, are grateful to their alma maters for what they have and for whom they have become. It is a touching story.

Past.Future SignWhat really piqued my interest though, was another part of the article…. the part where I discovered that Wexner and I have something in common! When asked if he ever wanted to study something other than business, Wexner told a story from long ago about he and his friends deciding on their majors. One wanted to study pre-med, which made sense because he wanted to be a doctor. Another wanted to be a history major. This did not make sense to Wexner. He couldn’t understand why anyone would want to know what happened in the past and commented that “I’d like to know what’s happening today.”

I couldn’t agree more. My philosophy about the past is to remember the good times. Other than that, learn from your mistakes, get over it and don’t let it happen again! Pretty superficial, I know. An analyst I’m not. There will be no poring over financials and analytics for me. Give me a look into the future instead! A thirst for what’s happening today and a keen interest in what is likely to happen in the future is why I do what I do and why I find customer engagement programs so exciting!

They’re all about what’s happening today and what is likely to happen in the future. They’re focused on success! They’re about learning from mistakes, overcoming challenges, developing new products and services, and changing direction for future growth. They’re not about the past.

At a recent Board meeting, members told their hosts that service consistency was a problem, that it was a drag on their performance and perception with customers.  They said improving it would not only improve customer perception, but would serve as a differentiator in the market. Board members didn’t rehash every misstep, nor did our client make a movie out of it. Instead, they are turning their service organization around. They are assessing their processes, structure and approach, and are determined to deliver quality service consistently. Service will become a market differentiator and it will lead to their ongoing success in the future!      

So, what is your preference? Do you prefer to rehash the past or are you like Les Wexner and me who prefer to look to the future and our ongoing success?

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