Why Middleby Doesn't Chase Customers

In the video interview below, Motley Fool CEO Tom Gardner speaks with Middleby (NASDAQ: MIDD  ) CEO Selim Bassoul. Since becoming CEO in 2000, Bassoul has led a remarkable transformation at Middleby, turning the cooking equipment maker's stock into a nearly 50-bagger over that time. In the video below, Bassoul discusses how the company can continue its rapid growth.

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Tom Gardner: I want to talk about your philosophy of serving your customers, and I want to talk about it in the context of the pursuit of new customers and the service of existing customers, because we just talked about this beforehand and I found it pretty fascinating, how you view what your goals are with regard to your customer base.

Selim Bassoul: Our goal is 100% customer retention. We chase very little new customers. We are not interested in chasing new customers. We believe that you should retain the same customers, pamper them, surround them and protect them, and the way we do that is simple. So feature and benefit, a value proposition, but the biggest thing that has been a big success for me is that I spend most of my time not visiting my own customers. I visit customers of my competitors, because those customers tell me what the competitors are doing right and wrong, and take it back and apply to my own...

Gardner: Now most people would think that that was your attempt to steal those customers from your competitors.

Bassoul: No, no, I have no attempt. When I go in and meet with those customers, they say, Selim, we don't choose Middleby. I said, "Great. All I want to know is why you use my competitors." And the reason is my customers love us. Our customers love us. They can't tell me what's wrong with my equipment. I take an example of Papa John's, who uses exclusively our ovens. They don't know our competitors. They have never used the competitor's oven. It's my obligation duty to go back and tell them, this is a competing chain that chooses my competitors, and let me tell you what they get and what they don't get. The good stuff I take it back to my company and apply it to my customers.


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