Our Three Jobs in the Value Chain

Receive well, add value, supply well

Dakin Sloss
Jul 8, 2019 · 4 min read

If you ask even the most highly valuable contributors on a team, odds are the individual only knows of one of his or her jobs. We all tend to focus on how we add value: eg writing software code, inventing a physical component to function better, or convincing a prospective client to say yes. While this is of course crucial to success, it is only 1/3 of the job. To recognize our other responsibilities, we must hold the context that in any company, our work is part of a broader value chain. This concept of the value chain was one of the most important areas of focus in Business Mastery, a Tony Robbins (a partner at Prime Movers Lab) event our team recently attended.

The value chain is the overall process in which value is delivered to the client. For example, if I want to buy a car, there are multiple steps a car company takes to make this possible. First, a representative at the dealer greets me. Second that representative introduces me to possible cars and solicits my feedback. Third, he or she connects me to someone who makes a test drive possible. Fourth, the sales person checks with their sales manager what price can be offered. Fifth, the sales person negotiates with me. Sixth, the sales person helps me complete paperwork to submit to the back office. Seventh, the back office verifies the paperwork and processes payment. Eighth, a person from the dealer ensures the car is prepared to be given to me to driven home. Ninth, I receive the car and drive home. This is just describing the sale of the car, not its manufacturing or marketing or other key processes that made this possible.

At each step in the value chain described above, there are three actions a representative of the dealer takes. First, the worker receives something (information, requests, emotions, needs, materials or deadlines) from the previous worker in the value chain: eg the paperwork or the negotiation parameters. Second, the worker adds value by providing a test drive, or negotiating, or processing payment. Third, the worker supplies something to the next worker. This cycle of receiving, adding value and supplying repeats at each step in the chain.

This makes clear the three jobs we all have: receive well, add value and supply well. Even if you add tons of value but receive poorly from the previous worker or supply poorly to the next one, you aren’t doing your job because you are breaking the value chain and not ultimately serving the interests of the client. The key is to recognize that everyone is your client including the prior worker who you are receiving from and the future worker who you are supplying. Adding value is just one step to success.

So what does it look like to do each step well? For receiving, you want to proactively and intelligently process what is being supplied to you. This means anticipating what is coming to be ready to receive it. It also means clarifying and verifying what you are receiving to ensure there was accurate communication. Otherwise, the ball gets dropped and the ultimate client suffers (eg a misunderstanding about which car color is available to purchase today).

For adding value, it’s about the client’s standards. You don’t measure added value based on what you as the contributor want, but rather what the client needs and believes is valuable. This requires stepping into the world of the client and falling in love with meeting their needs rather than falling in love with your product or service.

Finally, to supply well: intelligently and proactively hand off by anticipating what might break down and preventing that. Clarify and verify that what you are supplying has been received well and the next person has gotten the desired information, request, emotion, need, material or deadline intended.

Remember, you have three jobs that ensure an unbroken value chain: receive well, add value, and supply well.

Prime Movers Lab invests in breakthrough scientific startups founded by Prime Movers, the inventors who transform billions of lives. We invest in seed-stage companies reinventing energy, transportation, infrastructure, manufacturing, human augmentation and computing.

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