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I founded and co-founded a couple of companies: Redington and mallowstreet; I write about issues of the day that touch me and make me think. Mostly about how to make things better.

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Orange Muffins and Chicken Pie

In 1997 I was responsible for a small derivatives desk in Singapore – of which, more some other time. The only relevant information for the purpose of this blog is that at 16:00 every day I would make my humid way across Raffles Plaza to The Tea Shop on the edge of Boat Quay to order a coffee and an orange muffin with grated peel sprinkled liberally on top.  One afternoon, I strolled into the emporium and placed my order, clearly and unmistakably.

The chap on the other side of the counter looked me squarely in the eye and said ‘Would you like some chicken pie instead – only 4 Sing Dollars?’

‘Thanks’ I said, ‘But no. I’d prefer an orange muffin, please. Chicken pie and latte doesn’t work quite as well at tea time’.

‘It really is very excellent chicken pie’, my man pressed on, ‘and you can have it for 3 Sing’.

‘Tell me’, I said mystified, ‘Which bit of ‘Can I have an orange muffin?’ sounds like ‘I’d really like some chicken pie?’’

‘Tell you what’, he said, wholly unmoved, ‘You can have it for 2 Sing. Boss said we gotta shift it by tonight. No excuses.’

Wearily, I grabbed my coffee, headed for the door and never went back. Three months later The Tea Shop closed for ever and the savvy guys from Starbucks moved in.

Too often when clients ask for Orange Muffins, what they get is Chicken Pie. Because what the client needs is not always what you want to sell.

Thing is, they can ALWAYS tell the difference.


4 comment on “Orange Muffins and Chicken Pie

  • Simon Carne
    September 6, 2011 | 8:07 am

    I have to disagree.

    Of course, we can usually tell what food we want to eat. But when we move from "customer" (who is famously always right) to "client", we often don't know what is good for us. Indeed, clients often lack the knowledge to know when to approach their adviser or how to frame the right question.

    All those intriguing blogs you have engaged us with (here and elsewhere) about your early attempts to sell de-risking to reluctant pension schemes.

    I accept that you genuinely believed that chicken pie was better for the schemes than the orange muffins they were asking for, rather than you simply having baked too many that morning. But your blog today asserts that the clients can always tell.

    Can they?

  • Dawid Konotey-Ahulu
    September 6, 2011 | 8:31 am

    Interesting point you make – thank you.

    Plainly, clients do not always know what they need (just as, when I go to see my doctor, I often have no idea what the diagnosis or cure should be) but – and this is my point – the client can always tell whether you are serving their interests or your own.

    All too often, I maintain, when a client outlines their problem, the solution is crafted around what needs to get shifted by tonight.

  • Neil Walker
    September 6, 2011 | 11:10 am

    Maybe you are looking at this the wrong way.

    If you had skipped the coffee, you could have had chicken pie and muffin. Main course with a nice pudding. Early dinner.

    Of course, I could be missing the point entirely.

  • Dawid Konotey-Ahulu
    September 6, 2011 | 11:40 am

    Lovin' it! And yes, you are missing the point entirely… 🙂

Love to get your thoughts

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