Whatever happened to value?

I was on a conference call the other day when the long-term prospects of a large, US-based prepaid issuer became the central subject of the conversation. To be frank, I consider the majority of the people who were on this call to be smarter than I am. But after listening to about ten minutes worth of conversation revolving around effective partnerships, cheap distribution, operational efficiencies and the like I found myself asking (at first to myself… then to the group) “whatever happened to value?”.

One of my friends on the call asked me what I was talking about. “I was just wondering if anyone was every going to bring up for discussion that it seems their product stinks,” I replied.

It seems to me that regardless of their retail relationships or efficient distribution no one wants to keep their cards or get a new one… but no one ever talks about it. You cannot measure the likelihood of success solely based on macroeconomic principals when the people using the product simply don’t like it.

Investors are looking for unicorns and analysts for new math problems but at the end of the day nothing matters more than the happiness of the customer using the product. Steve Jobs knew that better than anyone and because of his obsession with delighting his customers, Apple is one of the largest and most successful companies on the planet.

I have been alternately raising money and building companies for almost 20 years now and I don’t think I have ever had an investor ask me how much my customers like our product. But I truly believe that our value as a company, to our employees, our customers, our investors and the market, will be predicated almost totally on exactly that.

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