7:30 AM, on Monday, December 5th, 2011, flight 1052. As I took my seat in Southwest Airlines' "Business Class," otherwise known as the exit row, I gave a nod to my new seat mate and noticed his MacBook on the tray table. He was reading something on his iPad and set it down for a second to send a text message from his iPhone. Now there's a Kool-Aid connoisseur, I thought. "Going to Salt Lake or beyond?" I asked. "Salt Lake. Gotta visit some customers, and after that I have to go to Boise to train our western region sales team."
And so the conversation began. I learned that his name is Jamie, he is in sales, travels every week, loves his job and his company, and is the top sales performer. $3M in quota last year and his secret sauce is knowing his customers' businesses better than they do, and delivering value with every interaction. He said, "Last week I had a meeting with a new prospect for the first time, and they couldn't believe I showed up without slides, and we spent the meeting talking about their situation instead of throwing up all over them about what we do." Jamie is a HERO. His world revolves around delivering customer value, and he has neither the time nor the patience for anything that gets in the way.
Naturally, I asked him some questions about his MacBook Air and the applications he uses. His answers, while fascinating, echo what I hear from many others like him:
Q: How do you like your MacBook Air? A: I love it.
Q: Does your company issue those or is that one yours? A: Hell no! It's mine! They gave me a huge Dell.
Q: Where is it? A: It's in the closet at home, still in the bag.
Q: Does your company support the Mac?
Music is a very important part of my life. At home I've always got something playing on the sound system, I never go anywhere without headphones, and my music collection takes up more space in my house (not to mention on my computer) than anything else. That's why on a recent trip up to Maine – a 4.5 hour ride from Boston – the first thing I did to prepare was make sure I had my phone for music on the drive, without which I'd be stuck with the radio. Having to listen to the same 40 songs for four and a half hours is something that could easily give me nightmares but it got me thinking about how much choice matters.
Ten years ago I would have been happy enough with just the radio. Then came Napster and the iPod and my world changed. I became aware the technology existed which meant I knew there was a better alternative to the radio. What's more, I was excited about it. I wanted to use my iPod and put new music on it. The product engaged me as it had engaged everyone around me. I think that correlates with what we're seeing today in firms across all industries where employees have long been locked into aging technology – which often doesn't do everything they need it to – by lack of choice.