Who doesn't love a good "revenge" story? Like how Richard Branson started Virgin Atlantic when American Airlines canceled his flight to the British Virgin Islands. Or how Reed Hastings started Netflix after paying a $40 Blockbuster late fee.
Or how an Italian tractor manufacturer decided to take on Ferrari.
Ferruccio was born in 1916 to a family of grape farmers. After an apprenticeship at a machine shop and serving as an airplane mechanic during World War II, he saw an opportunity to leverage his background and launch a tractor manufacturing business. Short of capital, he cobbled together his first prototypes using parts from surplus military vehicles.
Then he saw his opportunity: Since gas was extremely expensive, Ferruccio developed a device that would allow an engine to be started with petrol, but then run on much cheaper diesel fuel.
And with that, he was off. Business boomed.
Ferruccio became a wealthy man -- and as wealthy men often tend to do, he started buying sports cars. Fiats. Maseratis. Jaguars. A few Alfa Romeos, just for good measure.
And then, one day, a Ferrari 250 GT.
He loved the statement the car made. But he didn't love the actual car. It was too noisy. The ride was too stiff. As Ferruccio put it, his Ferrari was a re-purposed track car with an extremely uncomfortable interior.
And then there was the clutch, which required frequent trips to the Ferrari shop to be overhauled. Ferruccio expressed his dissatisfaction to Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari. Enzo -- tellingly nicknamed il Commendatore, or the Commander -- was not pleased.
As legend has it, Enzo replied, "You stick to making tractors. I'll make the cars."
In time-honored entrepreneurial tradition, Ferruccio decided not to stick to making tractors.
And knew just where to turn for help to launch his business: Two years earlier, Enzo had fired five key engineers -- among them a chief engineer and a legendary development manager -- for complaining about how factory floor decisions were made.
Ferruccio's first car, the 350 GT, was a modest success. But his focus on quality and innovation soon paid off: The Miura, the world's first mid-engine production car, was a hit. A few years later, Ferruccio sold out and retired. Successive owners grew the brand and the business; in 2020 the company booked nearly $2 billion in revenue and recorded record profits.
But the best part of the story? Ferruccio, the customer whose input Enzo Ferrari dismissed, was the founder's first name.
His last name? Lamborghini.
Granted, sometimes the customer isn't right.
But you should still listen, because some of your customers know what your brand delivers better than you do. You know what your promises; your customer knows what your brand delivers.
And because the things you don't do well -- the quality and service issues you aren't aware of, or make a conscious decision not to address -- may turn what was a customer into a competitor.