A Humble Ramen Is What I Need For My Business

My wife, our two kids and I were starving after a long afternoon of shopping on Takeshita street market in Harajuku, Tokyo. As tourists, we had no clues whatsoever where to eat.

We turned to Google, our reliable unofficial tour guide. Google map showed several options for the best places to eat ramen in town. There was one with fantastic reviews albeit it was a bit far from Takeshita street.

So we walked, and walked, and walked, but for some reason, we could not find this place.

Bummer!

Getting a bit desperate we were ready to walk into a 7-Eleven shop to grab a couple of pre-packaged meal boxes.

And that was when a smallish ramen place caught our eyes. It looked like it was squeezed in-between two buildings.

We decided to give it a try.

“Just One Type of Ramen”

We realised there were limited type of ramens. There were only four of them. Inside there was a machine for ordering and payment. Each of us chose a different type of ramen. Mine was called a winter special with chillies, yummy.

It is different, unique, and most importantly it caters for certain diners who keep coming back for more.

“Ahh welcome, welcome,” the owner (and head chef) said with a big smile.

The owner was amicable. His name was Jun. We called him ‘Uncle Jun’. He prepared the foods swiftly and within 15 minutes we were enjoying great tasting ramens.

“Uncle Jun, can I ask you a question?” I asked.

“Ahh of course, of course,” he replied.

“Why do you only have four types of ramen?”

Uncle Jun smiled and fixed his headband. “Ahhh good question. You see, ramen is a simple dish. It mainly comprises of noodle, broth, flavouring, and toppings (egg, meat, onion, etc.). There are not many types of ramens we can do with such a small number of core ingredients.”

“Ok, but surely you can make more than four types?” I was not satisfied with his answers.

“I like your enthusiasm but let me tell you a secret. In this place, there is only one type of ramen.” He smiled as his eyes twinkled. “I put four on the machine, so people have choices. In reality, they are just slightly different combinations of the core ingredients.”

“Only one?” I wondered even more.

“Yes.”

Uncle Jun realised my confusion. “My motto is: ‘Focus before Quality’. We only have limited resources at our disposals. If I try to have a big range of ramens, then we will not be able to cope. So instead I focus all my efforts into one exceptional dish. It is different, unique, and most importantly it caters for certain diners who keep coming back for more.”

“Your ramen is delicious indeed. The noodle is springy and tasty. And wow, I have never tasted such a delicate combination of pork and soy sauce.” I slurped the broth with delight.

“Hmm .. maybe I should try to focus all of my efforts into one special service or product too,” I was thinking in my head. “I also have limited resources like uncle Jun.”

“Sweet Spot for Special Customers”

“Uncle Jun, can I ask one more question?” I said.

“Yes of course, what do you want to know?” Uncle Jun replied.

“Umm, I realise some ramen places use machines to take orders, including yours,” I said. “Isn’t it better to take orders yourself?”

It is about making sure that our unique ramen is consistently perfect for certain diners. All they have to do is come and eat.

Uncle Jun smiled again. “You are very observant. The main purpose of using a machine is to eliminate mundane tasks so I can focus more on making great tasting ramen.” He stopped a bit to catch his breath. “You see, taking orders is more than just taking notes. It also involves handling cash which can be deceptively time-consuming. Using a machine eliminate all the extra tasks.”

“But what if customers want extra salt, a different type of noodles or more meat?”

“Ahhh, yes, yes, some ramen places do give those options. For us, it is about making sure that our unique ramen is consistently perfect for certain diners. All they have to do is come and eat. Trust me, when you have achieved that ‘sweet spot’ for your customers, they will come back again and again. No need for extra meat or salt.”

“How do you figure out this ‘sweet spot’?”

“It will take a while with a lot of trials and errors but be persistent. And above all, always do it with love for your customers. Never stop asking them for feedback and suggestion. Ultimately, their satisfaction is your success.”

“I never thought about this. Maybe I should find this ‘sweet spot’ too for my own customers.” I was again thinking in my head. “What a great idea, the sweet spot for special customers.”

“Seasonal Ramens for Special Experiences”

“I have one more thing to tell you,” Uncle Jun said to me.

”Great, tell me, tell me,” I was too eager to learn more.

”There is an addition to the sweet spot.”

”There is?”

”Yup I call it the ‘Seasonal Spot’.”

”Ok, please tell me more.”

”Well, the basic idea is to create a special type of ramen with a certain season.” Uncle Jun poured green tea to my cup. “Think of it as a sweet spot with a theme for your customers. Got it?”

”Not really.”

”For example, now it is winter, and I offer spicy ramen with Japanese chillies. That is the one you are eating now.”

”Oooh I have the seasonal spot ramen,” I said smiling.

”They taste the same as our unique ramen, only spicier. The whole idea is to add certain interesting elements without sacrificing the uniqueness of your products. And then use it as a seasonal promotion.”

”And what is the purpose of doing that?”

”So your customers have something to talk about every season. They are your best marketers. You need to give them reasons to tell their friends about your products. Talking about the same thing for a whole year is boring. But talking about a different thing every season is not. The product is the same, just altered slightly for effect.”

“Wow, that is an excellent idea.”

“I am glad you like it.”

“I should be doing something like this,” I thought to myself. “It’s true, my customers are my best marketer, and they need help in spreading the words.”

We were all delighted with Uncle Jun’s ramens. My kids and I practically fought for every last bit of noodles and pork meat. My wife was sitting quietly while guarding her bowl of ramen.

“Thank you, Uncle Jun,” I said to him. “It was ‘oishii’.”

(oishii = really good-tasting)

“Arigatou,” my kids said to uncle Jun.

“Arigatou gozaimashita, Uncle Jun,” my wife also said.

“Ahhh no problem, no problem, come back anytime,” Uncle Jun said with a big smile.

“What great lessons from a humble bowl of ramen,” my thought was swirling again in my head. “Focus before Quality, Sweet Spot, and Seasonal Spot. I will remember these lessons every time I eat a bowl of ramen.”


As previously published in The Ascent: A Humble Ramen Is What I Need For My Business.

Not forbidden passion fruit

Us humans are complex creatures. We walk in time yet there are moments when time seems to speed up only to slow down again. There are times when we believe we can change the world and yet we fail again and again. We eat, sleep, and play, within the 24 hrs constraints of our daily limit. When we are excited, passionate, full of spirit, we can charge ahead no matter what the hurdles are. Our passions turn us into wild beasts, capable of moving mountains and splitting oceans. Have you ever felt like certain things in life whisper to you? Calling you to act, prompting you to give your best, and to fill your lives with meaningful moments.
Note #1 – Real passion never dies
It’s alive! It exists within us, always surfacing when discovered. It empowers, yet it needs to be fed. Our real passion is always there, however long it’s been dormant. A little bit of attention from us will nudge it awake from its long sleep. Our real passion will take over, moving us forward, to do things we never thought possible. Spend time with it, and it will be defining our steps, shaping our future.

What are those things you always have in your heart? They move you to places you dream about, and often scare you that you push them back. When you spend time with them you know you are in your own special moment.

Note #2 – Passion speaks through your daily life
Passion can be difficult to spot, it doesn’t have tangible forms, it doesn’t have smell and it doesn’t move around. Yet it is lurking in every aspects of your life. It fuses itself into your daily activities, often into your somewhat dull routines. When you sense it, the feelings of accomplishment will overcome you even though you haven’t done a thing. It speaks a language only its owner understands. It will draw you closer every time you listen to it.

Look at your daily activities, including the dull ones. Are there instances when you feel a sense of deep accomplishment? Are there moments when you feel like you are drawn to it? Are there things that you love so much you just couldn’t stop doing it?

Note #3 – It is a never-ending free energy which only you can use
We eat and drink to replenish our physical strengths. We read to replenish our intellectual prowess. We sleep so our cells can repair themselves. Nevertheless, we often feel empty, unmotivated, and even frustrated. Maybe we hate our jobs, we long for coffee breaks, we wait for 5pm. What about those times when we feel tired, heavy, and looking for an escape? Is it true that our passion can fuel our lives? Is it true that if we work for something we love we will never work for another day in our lives? Passion is a free energy, given to each of us, for specific things, for certain people. It just keeps giving.

Watch for things that exhaust you, your real passion will do the opposite, it will empower you instead. When was the last time you found yourselves working through breaks, lunch, dinner, and everything else, and not dropping a single ‘sigh’?

Note #4 – Beware passion imitators
It is elusive, it is often mistaken with an escape from daily routines. Only when it becomes a routine that we know what it’s really made of. Time will tell whether your real passion is true. When we know for sure what it is, hold on to it. Real passion is like a treasure that never loses its value in the market. The more it is used, the higher the value it offers to its owners. Never let it go for it is more valuable than gold and more durable than diamond.

Watch for things that might be a fake passion. These are the things that you like doing but only last for short period of time. Real passion will empower you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Time is your examiner, it will let you know if your passion is real or not. Real passion will grow over time, turning you into an impossible over-achiever.

Note #5 – Enjoy it and it will repay you many times more
Passion needs to be fed, just like a child who demands attentions. Focus on it, spend time with it, feed it, and it will grow. It will flourish and mature into highly powered energy reservoir. It will reward its owner with never-ending mental prowess. Work with it, learn to use it, nurture it. Your passion will repay you many times over, and you are the only person in the world who can maximize it to the full.

Learn to do daily activities which lead to greater sense of fulfillment, where you know your passion is being nourished and fed. Look for specific things, focus on the important few. Fight the temptation to get instant results. It takes time to build your life around your passion. Enjoy it and it will reward you many times more.

 


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Strengths of a manager – what are they really?

There are good bosses, there are bad bosses. Then there are also the crazy ones, the ones we wish we never met. There are also those who changed our lives – for the better. These were the ones whom we learned so much from. Each of them seemed to have certain qualities, the kinds that only exist within them.

So what are these qualities?

When we’re talking about a person strengths and weaknesses, what are they really?

Is it selling skill? administration? negotiation? or is it something less straightforward?

Maybe it is a combination of all of the above?

What it is that make a great manager able to withstand pressures and perform better than most people?

There are different types of managers, each managing their own departments. Some are called sales managers, the others logistic managers, or operational manager, then there’s the administration manager, and etc. Each has his/her own specialty. The big question is off course, would you appoint an administration manager to be a sales manager? or vice versa? Maybe not, but why?

Surely a sales manager must be good in selling, unless he/she wouldn’t have a clue what the sales people are doing. The same thing goes for administration manager, or any other type of managers. Which is why it’s not a good idea to get them to do each other works.

So, we have an idea here. Specialty. A good sales manager is also a good sales person. A good admin manager is also a good administrator. If anyone is wondering why they are not performing as well as other people, maybe the answer is here. Maybe they’re working in the wrong department.

Now, here’s the important part. In order to be a good sales manager, he/she must have other qualities, not just selling skills.

In fact, your specialty is only the tip of the iceberg. It is the one everyone is looking at, the one showing all the time. However, the real damages come from your secondary strengths.

A good analogy is the iceberg that crushed Titanic. The tip of the iceberg only accounts for about 15% of the total mass. Without the other 85% the tip will just be floating away, carried by the ocean wave, crushed by large ships. Your secondary strengths are the 85%. They are the ones that carry the tip of your strengths (or your specialty) so you could perform better.

Another analogy is the tip of a pencil. Your specialty is the tip of a pencil, the little graphite things that sticks out. It is the one that is used to write, to draw, etc. Without the tip, the pencil is useless. However, without the body of the pencil you would have a hard time doing anything with the tip. The better the body of the pencil is the better the writing will be.

A sales manager, while must be good at selling, must also have other qualities. He must have good leadership quality, high level of organization skills, and also able to connect to different levels of people. These are hidden strengths that are not easily visible yet they are so powerful they can take people to places they can only imagine.

On the other hand, what if a manager has all these fantastic qualities, yet lack specialty? Well, think of it like a pencil with good strong body but without the tip. It has potentials, but he/she needs to find specialty to focus and make a real difference. In other words, the pencil needs sharpening.

Happy Managing!