Friday at last and while you might be expecting a lengthy piece on the history of corned beef for our Foodie Friday Fun approaching St. Patrick’s Day, I couldn’t really find any great business points buried in there. Oh sure, we could have a chat about multiculturalism since corned beef is a food staple in many cultures (and strangely it came late to the Irish culture and it’s really more American Irish than it is native to the Old Sod) but that seems a bit forced.
So for today’s Foodie Fun I want to think about blind tastings, specifically wine tastings. There have been many examples of unexpected results when all the trappings of a wine are taken away (big name, fancy bottle, vintage year, even what grape). The most famous of these if the Judgement of Paris which one could claim was the birth of the modern California wine industry and was commemorated in the movie Bottle Shock. In 1976, California wines were rated higher than many top French wines in a blind tasting held in Paris and judged by mostly French wine experts. Of course, these same judges believed it would be easy to spot the “inferior” California wines and had any one of them conducted the tasting and written the results on their own, they might have been laughed out of their profession. Which is, of course, the business point.
There is an old saying that no one ever got fired for buying (pick one – IBM, AT&T, Microsoft, etc.). It means no one gets fired for making the safe pick and choosing an industry leader. While there are other companies out there with better products or offer similar quality as the market leaders at lower prices, they come with the risk of ridicule should there be a problem. Speaking as an independent consultant I can tell you that bigger companies, where decision-making is often a group matter, seem to feel most comfortable hiring other big companies – you all know the top consulting firms. It’s an easy decision to justify. Too bad – if they were to taste us blind – have a telephone conversation with the people doing their work as well as to look at our fees – the might get the same or better outcomes at better rates. That’s not just in my field of consulting – many businesses overspend and get inferior results because they don’t do a blind taste test.
If you’ve got concerns about using companies other than the big guys in any field, raise those concerns directly with the firm that rated more highly even thought they’re not the brand name. Build the answers – service levels, delivery dates, etc. – into the contract. Ignoring your business palate when it’s telling you something is better – even if it’s a brand with which you’re unfamiliar – is silly. Who knows – you just might find a $10 bottle that puts the $50 swill to shame.