Posted on June 18, 2013 by Keith
Every once in a while I find something in the world of science that teaches me something about business. Such was the case the other day as I read an article about cheetahs in the N.Y. Times. No, this isn’t going to be some clever pun about cheetahs never winning (sorry) but about how many businesses can learn something from the cheetah’s hunting tactics.
(Photo credit: fatedsnowfox)
As the article said:
Anyone who has watched a cheetah run down an antelope knows that these cats are impressively fast. But it turns out that speed is not the secret to their prodigious hunting skills: a novel study of how cheetahs chase prey in the wild shows that it is their agility — their skill at leaping sideways, changing directions abruptly and slowing down quickly — that gives those antelope such bad odds.
Cheetahs don’t actually go very fast when they’re hunting,” said Alan M. Wilson, a professor at the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London who studied cheetahs in Botswana and published a paper about them on Wednesday in the journal Nature. “The hunt is much more about maneuvering, about acceleration, about ducking and diving to capture the prey.”
How many times have you read something urging businesses to “fail fast?” I think that’s a misnomer – it’s not about failing; it’s about learning and having the cheetah-like agility to change direction. Just as cheetahs don’t go full-out fast when hunting (they’re capable of running 65 MPH – they might hunt at 35 MPH), maybe those of us in business need to learn to slow down a tad so we can turn. I think it’s also about being able to see the landscape more clearly as you’re moving more slowly. As you know if you’ve ever looked sideways out of a car going 60, things are pretty blurry when you’re moving fast.
There’s an expression in racing – slow down to go fast. I like that a lot better than “haste makes waste.” Given the pace of change, it’s important to have the capability to run like the cheetah. It’s equally important to know when that speed is something to sacrifice in order to have a successful hunt. You agree?
Filed under: Consulting, Helpful Hints | Tagged: business, business thinking, Cheetah, life lessons, management, managing, Strategic management | 1 Comment »
Posted on June 13, 2013 by Keith
I made myself a note to write about a common business situation that can cause a lot of grief if not handled in a smart manner. Unfortunately, what prompted the note was a situation which was not handled the right way. I’m talking about conflict of interest and how appearances really do matter.
When I was in my corporate jobs from time to time I was offered “insider” pricing on some pending IPO‘s. I was also invited to serve on advisory boards. These offers came from start-up companies that were looking to do business with my employer and I was under no delusion that the offers were being extended because of my wit and charm or youthful good looks. I hesitate to use the word “bribe” but I understood that it was possible someone looking at this might think that my loyalty might be by divided – business interest vs. self-interest.
What raises this is a report on a major ad agency CEO being granted stock options in a company that is a vendor to her agency. These options might be worth as much at $3,000,000 if a planned IPO goes through. Digiday makes the exact point:
In its S-1 filing, Tremor says any conflicts of interest related to Desmond are and will continue to be avoided because she’s “recused herself from all negotiations” with the company. While it’s unlikely Desmond regularly writes media plans for SMG’s clients, the fact remains she oversees a business that spends millions of dollars with a company she has a financial interest in.
I know from personal experience that even when your boss tells you to ignore his relationships with a vendor it’s hard when you know there’s a friendship or familial relationship. When those relationships are more than personal friendships and extend into financial dealings, it’s impossible.
Appearances matter. In this age, one can assume any relationship will come out and be widely known. Any competitive vendor losing some of the agency’s business will have grounds to cry foul. Tremor (the vendor involved) will have grounds to scream if the CEO (and now board member) doesn’t live up to her fiduciary responsibilities It’s a bad, easily avoidable situation for everyone. Hopefully you’re smarter than this. Right?
Filed under: Helpful Hints, Reality checks | Tagged: business, business thinking, ethics | Leave a Comment »
Posted on June 7, 2013 by Keith
It’s Foodie Friday and I know you’ve been wondering where I’ve been. Sorry about the infrequent posts this week. I’ve written before about the golf outing I go on every year and I’m in Myrtle Beach with the crew celebrating our friendship and playing an awful lot of (bad) golf. We come to Myrtle for the golf and fellowship – we definitely don’t come for the food. In 19 years of visiting we’ve found a few (and only a few) decent restaurants and so we’ve taken to cooking for ourselves a lot. While our food definitely tops out at the “advanced amateur” level, it beats most of what we’d pay for here. That said, the restaurants – a mixture of national chains, Calabash seafood joints, and sports bars – don’t make it worth the effort of money we’d spend on dinner for 12.
Why I bring this up is that they seem to do a good business which raised the question in my mind of standards. We’re not food snobs – most of us enjoy simple food prepared well using high quality ingredients and we’re not looking for fancy sauces or molecular gastronomy techniques. The standard to which we hold professionals is very different (apparently) from the one most of the folks visiting here seem to have.
The business question is this. I don’t think the cooks are less skilled nor the service staff any less capable. I do think that they’re playing to the bar set by their clientele and that’s a trap for any business. We need to be focused on “best” and not on”this will get us by.” Many folks like fried seafood buffets (a specialty around here) but using old oil for frying or frozen, imported fish rather than changing the oil regularly and fresh local catch is meeting the low expectations that come either from not knowing any better (McDonald’s is fine until you taste Fatburger or In & Out) or from a business that doesn’t focus on repeat customers. Very few businesses are afforded that luxury.
Since golf is delayed by a tropical storm passing through (good planning I know), we’ll be cooking another meal here. That’s some restaurant’s loss (and given this group it’s a substantial loss). Our job in business is to make eating out at our place a more attractive proposition than staying home. The higher we set our own bars the more likely we are to do that.
Filed under: Consulting, food, Helpful Hints | Tagged: advice, business thinking, Food, golf, management, Strategic management | Leave a Comment »