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: Helpful Hints, Consulting | Tagged: business, managing, life lessons, business thinking, management, Strategic management, Cheetah | Leave a Comment »
Posted on June 14, 2013 by Keith
An unlikely source for our Foodie Friday Fun this week – the folks over at Freakonomics. I’m a big fan of both the books and the podcast because their whole schtick is looking at things very differently albeit from an economic point of view. Today it’s the cronut, an invention by a NYC baker which is a cross between a doughnut and a croissant. As Freakonomics reports:
Cronuts are so popular that lines form at 6 a.m. — 2 hours before the shop opens — and Ansel runs out within minutes. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet (and Craigslist) there is even a cronut black market, with unauthorized cronut scalpers charging up to $40 apiece for home delivery (a mark up of 700%). And of course there are cronut knockoffs appearing all over the world. Ansel has even trademarked the name “cronut.”
So here we have an interesting and, hopefully, common problem – you do invent a better mousetrap although once it’s out there it’s not particularly hard to duplicate. You can try to protect it via patents or trademarks but the former is costly (and the laws are changing) and the latter is hard to protect for something such as this. Why? Because it is almost a “generic” term such as Kleenex or Xerox (tissues and copying, respectively). The article has a great overview of the laws involved if you’re interested. So what can you do?
In two words, be better. Two more: be smarter. You are, after, the original, and that’s an edge – sort of like what distinguishes the official sports league websites from all the other sports sites that are out there (scores and stats are commodity content, after all). People like that – getting the original as long as the original lives up to its reputation (anyone think Hyrdox are better than Oreo’s? Seriously?). The inventor has a head start and it’s a small business. Why blow the profits on enforcing the potentially unenforceable hundreds of miles away from your base of operation? We don’t take the time often enough to think about the real value behind an argument made in principle. What fees might come in from licensing the name to a bakery in LA? What might it cost to get those fees?
I’ve never had a cronut. I might even break my general eating habits to try one next time I’m in NYC (assuming I can get one). What I won’t do – and what you shouldn’t either – is sacrifice smart business thinking over some grandiose idea. Be better, be smarter, and you’ll reap the rewards. You agree?
Filed under: food, Reality checks | Tagged: business, business thinking, Food industry, Foodie, Freakonomics, Strategic management | Leave a 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 »