Everything I thought I needed to know about a “guarantee” I learned from Tommy Callahan. Tommy was the dimwitted hero in the movie Tommy Boy.
If you need a refresher or ignored the comedy all together, here is a quick refresher…

Tommy: Let's think about this for a sec, Ted. Why would somebody put a guarantee on a box? Hmmm, very interesting.
Ted Nelson, Customer: Go on, I'm listening.
Tommy: Here's the way I see it, Ted. Guy puts a fancy guarantee on a box 'cause he wants you to feel all warm and toasty inside.
Ted Nelson, Customer: Yeah, makes a man feel good.
Tommy: 'Course it does. Why shouldn't it? Ya figure you put that little box under your pillow at night, the Guarantee Fairy might come by and leave a quarter, am I right, Ted? [chuckles until he sees that Ted is not laughing]
Ted Nelson, Customer: [impatiently] What's your point?
Tommy: The point is, how do you know the fairy isn't a crazy glue sniffer? "Building model airplanes" says the little fairy; well, we're not buying it. He sneaks into your house once, that's all it takes. The next thing you know, there's money missing off the dresser, and your daughter's knocked up. I seen it a hundred times.
Ted Nelson, Customer: But why do they put a guarantee on the box?
Tommy: Because they know all they sold ya was a guaranteed piece of shit. That's all it is, isn't it? Hey, if you want me to take a dump in a box and mark it guaranteed, I will. I got spare time. But for now, for your customer's sake, for your daughter's sake, ya might wanna think about buying a quality product from me.

In other words, a “guaranteed” product, service, or offer is only as good as the physical, or moral, fiber of the item, or subject, itself. Otherwise, you have a hollow box of muck.

However, three things have recently come to my attention:
  1. Do not rely on Tommy Callahan for all of your educational needs
  2. Do not underestimate the power of a guarantee
  3. Understand the risk tolerance of your stakeholders
During a recent negotiation strategy board, two different options were entertained by the stakeholders. While evaluating options, it boiled down to Option A which outlined guaranteed near-term savings versus Option B which outlined future savings three times greater than Option A but without a guarantee. At the end of the day, the guarantee alone was enough for the company to choose Option A despite unknowns and a cloudy future.

Yep, we picked the shiny box with a guarantee.

It uprooted everything I believed in…maybe a guaranteed box of muck is worth something. Regardless of whether the guarantee was a “crazy glue sniffer” or not, it played the role of a tangible benefit. It allowed stakeholders to walk away comfortable and ready to say to management, “we are guaranteed savings.”

While savings may have been mistakenly left on the table, it was an important lesson on the comfort a guarantee provides stakeholders. For some, it was more important to manage perceived risk rather than reach greater savings. If there is a next time, more time will be spent understanding the risk tolerance of those who we are negotiating with and against…

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