Collateral Benefit on the “A” Train

‘You must take the A train,’ is the opening lyric to Billy Strayhorn’s signature Duke Ellington song.

Last night I did just that, enjoying the company of the very wise Peter Firestein.

We were returning from a delightful book party to celebrate the publication of LJ Rittenhouse’s  new book Buffet’s Bites.  I was telling Peter that he really needed to read Chris Brogan, who was the subject of last week’s Trust Quotes interview. (And yes, this is a lot of self-referential links, but it’s all true).

“What’s Brogan’s message in a nutshell?” asked Peter.

I pondered that. “I guess it’s that great marketing and customer relations in the new media age is same as it ever was: the best of it comes from unsolicited testimonials from customers.  And the best way to get that is to focus on the customers and on serving their needs. If you do that, they’ll then market you.”

“And,” I said, warming to the subject, “the paradox is that your own success cannot be a goal—it is a byproduct, a secondary result, an outcome–but not a goal.”

“Sure,” said Peter, “I get it. Like collateral damage—but collateral benefit.”

“Yes!” I said, “Collateral benefit.  It’s what you and I and LJ and (Warren) Buffet believe too. Buffet’s best stock picks are great companies. And great companies are built on relationships—with stockholders, customers, employees. If you serve them, everything works—including your own results. But only as collateral benefit.”

I thought “collateral benefit” was a pretty cool phrase. I still do, hours later. I warned Peter I might blog about it.

So here’s to you, Peter; thanks for the world’s next mega-catch-phrase: collateral benefit.

The rest is up to the rest of you.

2 replies
  1. Mark Slatin
    Mark Slatin says:

    Right on.  Too many companies focus on the top line (or the bottom line) as their goal.  The problem is that we can’t control results – we can only control activities, our own.  Yes there’s a correlation between between activiites and results and we should be aware of how to work backwards from the goal to the activities.  But we can’t control the results, they are indeed, just collateral benefit.

  2. Sandy Styer
    Sandy Styer says:

    Charlie and Peter:

    I’m adding "collateral benefit" to my vocabulary — and my way of thinking — immediately!  Thank you.

    The title of this post got me thinking of all the "A" trains which can produce collateral benefit:   the Accountability train, the Authenticity train, the Action train.  Lots of good "A"s out there just waiting to be claimed.


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