Trading money for time and convenience is nothing new--it's the basis for countless businesses, from fully-prepared, take-home meals to dry cleaning pickup services. But for frequent international travelers, the money/convenience tradeoff goes way beyond grabbing a ready-to-eat rotisserie chicken; it's virtually a way of life. And a company called It's Easy (a name that is as boring and vague as it is absolutely perfect) has capitalized on that in exceptional fashion.
It's Easy is a passport and visa service; it handles anything and everything related to international travel documents. When I stupidly ran my "trophy" passport--with its hard-earned extra pages of countless immigration stamps--through the laundry, It's Easy had a new one to me in a week, sent overnight in a beautiful presentation envelope (not a necessary touch, but I am a huge believer in the value of elegance in business). When I need a new visa two weeks before a trip, they come through for me.
It's Easy will get you a new Passport in 7-10 days for $79, or in a day or two for $249. Tack on similar amounts if you want a visa included. Some of these transactions can add up to be pricey for a frugal small business owner like me, but weighed against the time, headaches and opportunity cost of doing it myself, it's an absolute no-brainer.
If you think it's lazy or indulgent, try to get a one-year, multi-entry China business visa on your own. In three days. When there's no consulate in your city. Let me know how that goes for you.
My purpose is not to plug It's Easy (though I am, and they deserve it). It is to suggest that the things this company does are--or should be--a universal recipe for success:
- Solve real problems, meet real needs: Businesses generally either solve problems (needs) or fulfill desires (wants). Either can lead to great success, but true problem-solving has a greater chance of success and job security. (Most) people can survive without an iPad longer than they can when they have a job for Roto-Rooter. And most people don't want to do on their own what they pay Roto-Rooter to do.
- Live up to your promises: It's Easy puts the promise right there in its unexciting name, and everything about doing business with them backs it up. What would normally take days or weeks of waiting in the rope-lines of bureaucratic hell, takes minutes in my comfy chair. In all the years I've used the service, there's never been so much as a glitch or a day's delay. They say what they'll do, and they do it.
- Be a pleasure to work with: It's Easy takes some of the most hassle-ridden tasks and de-hassles them. If you need help, they don't hide behind a customer service firewall. Their toll-free number (which spells ITS EASY, natch) is all over their website, on every document, and on the sticker they put on the back of your passport. Call them from anywhere in the world and you'll get a human being who understands all the complexities of what they do, and who will gladly help you. Doing business with them will make you happy, and that is the ultimate measure of a company.
- Execute flawlessly: The company has a beautiful, simple-to-use website (for a business that is anything but simple). Starting right on the home page, it gets you from what you need (passport, visa), to what is required (documents, photos), to a completed transaction in less time than it takes to get through the immigration line in Hong Kong. Documents that can't be completed online can be downloaded seamlessly. There's a running checklist to make sure you don't forget anything. If you pay for expedited service, it's done when they say it will be done (even same-day). Everything just works.
To be fair, there are other companies that provide these services, perhaps just as well, maybe even for a little less money, but this is the one I happen to use.
I have never gone comparison shopping, and don't plan to; this company has served me so well and made my life so much easier that it has earned my loyalty, even at the small risk that (maybe) I could save a couple of bucks somewhere else. And that's the exclamation point--the company has saved me so much time and trouble that the last thing I want to do is go to the time and trouble to find an alternative. That's a first-class ticket to business success.
Does your company, or one you know, have a similar formula for so thoroughly winning customers over by making their lives easier? Let's hear about it.
(Flickr image from The Wide Wide World)