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Simplicity and The Blue Tip Flame

Author: Joe Calloway

The Independent View


Joe Calloway
Simplicity and The Blue Tip Flame  

 January 29, 2013 


Apple computer founder Steve Jobs said his philosophy was that you have to work hard to get your thinking clean enough to make things simple, but that it's worth the effort, because if you can make things simple, you can move mountains.

That's worth repeating: if you can make things simple, you can move mountains.

What Jobs was really saying is that simple is more powerful and more effective than complicated, because the more complicated you've made your business, the less effective you will be. Complication freezes you into uncertainty and inaction. Simplicity enables you to get everyone focused on a shared vision, goal, or priorities and move forward.

You don't have all the time in the world, nor do you have unlimited money or people, so the key is to narrow your priorities. Think of it like this: If you blast a steel wall with the relatively large flame of a flame thrower, you'll create a lot of heat, but you won't get through the wall. If, however, you use the small blue tip flame from an acetylene torch, you can cut through the steel like it was butter.

Some people immediately reject the blue tip flame philosophy. They will refuse to believe that the success of extraordinary businesses and top performers is driven by a mindset and strategy of narrowed focus. And yet, it's true. The most successful retailers in the grocery industry today are the ones who—like the IGA retailers who won the Progressive Grocer Independents Awards mentioned yesterday—have zeroed in on making their stores fit a specific need within their marketplace. There's Tom Honer's focus on creating greener stores with healthier offerings; Bob Buonomano's goal of providing the freshest cuts of professionally butchered meats; Kurt Rodhe's emphasis on having a full-service deli that is the community's primary prepared foods destination; and Tyler Myer's simple formula for overall business success: find an underserved area and model your store and your offerings to fit a specific customer demographic—whether the store is a downtown hub serving commuters and tourists, or a true community center dedicated to the needs of an entire island.

Remember, top performers aren't the people who do the most things. Top performers are the people who do the most important things. They're the ones who move mountains.


Joe Calloway