Don Neal blog: "Prosperity conceals genius, adversity reveals it"
I’m writing this post in New Orleans and was thinking, is there anyplace in this city that doesn’t sell beignets? If you’ve been to The Big Easy, you know that a beignet is a French donut – fried dough covered with powdered sugar. It is delicious.

The hotel lobby has a kiosk that sells them by the bag every morning; the hotel restaurant offers them; there are beignet shops at every turn. Beignets are ubiquitous, omnipresent and a must-have when you’re in this city.

So why is it that the Café Du Monde, after 155 years in business, has continuous lines of more than 100 people for seating and just as long for carry out? The main location is always packed, is open 24 hours a day and appears to be making a lot of money. Even with massive competition, more convenient options to purchase and almost identical products.

One simple reason: reputation. That is their secret ingredient.

Telling your friends that you had beignets in the lobby of your hotel doesn’t cut it. Neither does bragging about some no-name café in the French Quarter. No question, the experience at Café Du Monde is legitimately different. Customers are greeted by a slightly dirty table, a sticky floor, no room to move, no air conditioning, pungent “aromas” wafting from the streets of NOLA and the opportunity to wait in line for 40 minutes or more.

And it’s worth it. The beignets and coffee are delicious, the prices are fair, there is a community atmosphere, and you feel like you’ve accomplished something.

What is it about the reputation of your organization that people will stand in line for, go out of their way for, share with their friends and colleagues, and even brag about?

What makes your business or association indispensable and irresistible, a “must-be-part-of experience”?

Here’s how you find out. Ask this one simple question of your customers and members.

What is the one thing that you would miss most about us if we went away, and why? Use the answer to know what your X-factor is. Understand it by customer segment, such as loyals, new members, frequent users of your website, etc.

Café Du Monde is not indispensable or irresistible to everyone, but to those for whom it is, it’s best for them to know why so they can honor it, cultivate it and protect it as the Golden Goose that it is.

Imagine a board member asking you this question and not having the answer. Better yet, find out now and get to work building upon it, protecting it and promoting it.