Foodie Friday! Today I want to build on something discovered by the folks at The Hartman Group.
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They have a site called HartmanSalt (which is not a site about ways to increase your blood pressure). They conduct regular surveys about food and food consumption. I was checking out something on snacking which triggered a business thought.
As the results show, Americans love to snack. We consume 2.3 snacks per day on average. This tends to happen later in the day and generally at home. What triggered the business thought were the next two data points. 57% of the respondents in the survey said it is important or very important for the food and/or beverages to be healthy. However the two most often mentioned snack foods are chips and soda. What we say doesn’t always align with what we do and that’s an important thing to remember in business.
That dichotomy is one of the things we find in focus groups – the things in which people express interest are not necessarily the things they’ll buy. Having done a few of them as a part of designing and building web sites, how users tell you they’ll use something and what they actually do as you observe them can be very different. It’s a point we see in management all the time. How managers say they behave and how they actually do are often out of sync. No manager, for example, will tell you that they mistreat employees and they say that they always are there for their staffs. Ask the folks on the other end if that’s true.
I’ve had friends who couldn’t understand why they were fat. They said they ate carefully and watched their portions. When they started keeping a food log (and there are some great apps for that!) they found out that what they said vs. what they did was showing up in their larger pant size. It’s something all of us in business need to think about – are we listening to what people say or are we verifying it against what they really do? How are we handling the conundrum the difference between the two? That solution is often the key to success.
I see that American Airlines and USAir announced their long-rumored merger this morning. I’ve flown over a million miles on American so I know it quite well. Over the years I’ve flown USAir from time to time but it I’m certainly not as familiar with it. Why do I bring this up?
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I’ve been through several corporate mergers. I was with ABC when CapCities bought it and then again when Disney bought CapCities. I was at CBS when Viacom bought it. From those experiences I learned a couple of things that I think have broader implications even if your company isn’t getting bought.
Mergers fail. A lot. In fact, studies indicate that somewhere between 50% and 85% of mergers come up short. I suppose that part of it has to do with the reason for the merger in the first place. If a company is buying another to eliminate a competitor the mission is accomplished no matter what happens to the acquired company. Part of it may be the enthusiasm for the merger blinding those involved to the potential pitfalls or wacky financing. But I think it’s primarily for another reason.
Simply put, culture. Think for a second about new immigrants to this country. They may not speak the language. They are unaware of our customs. They might not even know our laws. All of those things create resentment – look at the news and you can find many examples of it. It’s not that they’re bad people – their culture is different.
It’s no different when corporate cultures meet. There are almost always differences in management styles. How employees feel about the companies vary as much as do their benefits. Lost in the shuffle is the fact that one company is not buying another – you’re acquiring people! Those people may have been trained to have a different focus and how they measure success might not align exactly with your expectations. As with the immigrant example, helping them to learn the culture and to speak the language is an imperative.
I’ll be watching this merger with interest. I’m wondering if and how the cultural changes will manifest themselves to the flying public. If the managers are smart , the next year will be spent making sure everyone is on the same page and understands the cross-cultural changes. If they aren’t, like the vast majority of mergers, this one will fail.
Let’s begin the day with a factoid: last year’s mobile data traffic was nearly twelve times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000. That nugget comes from the Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2012–2017 which you can read by clicking the link. Some of what it has to say – as with the growth of smartphone use, for example – isn’t all that surprising. A few other points is kind of eye-opening:
- Mobile network connection speeds more than doubled in 2012.
- Android is now higher than iPhone levels of data use.
- Mobile video traffic exceeded 50 percent for the first time in 2012.
- By the end of 2013, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth, and by 2017 there will be nearly 1.4 mobile devices per capita.
- Nonsmartphone usage increased 35 percent to 6.8 MB per month in 2012, compared to 5.0 MB per month in 2011. Basic handsets still make up the vast majority of handsets on the network (82 percent).
That last one is a little scary since it shows that there is still a lot of growth left. Here’s the thing – a lot of this traffic was on cellular networks (as opposed to wi-fi), which is obviously why the telephone guys are upgrading like crazy. I think the growth is as much about device growth as it is about the services and quality of the content available on them, and it’s this last little bit that I think will continue to drive things. We tend to think of mobile devices as “second screen” but to me this study is evidence that they’re becoming a primary screen with respect to some content. That primary usage builds habits, and one wonders when those habits will be reflected in viewing to what are currently primary screens.
Another nugget: the average smartphone will generate 2.7 GB of traffic per month in 2017, an 8-fold increase over the 2012 average of 342 MB per month. How does that jibe with the bandwidth plans the carriers are selling? If they’re refusing to sell an “unlimited” plan or throttling speeds over 2GB, how will consumers react?
We can see all of this happening already. YouTube, for example, gets lots of views and while those views don’t eclipse the numbers that a major TV or cable network can deliver, they certainly are bigger than some of the second and third tier nets. YouTube is not generally available in homes but is ubiquitous on mobile devices. As YouTube behaves more like a cable content aggregator, one will see those numbers grow. That’s what’s driving the numbers Cisco is predicting. Is it driving you?
If you’ve read the screed more than once or twice you know that in a past life I was an English teacher. I’ve always loved words and so I read this post about 11 Words That Don’t Mean What They Sound Like with great interest. Words such as “crapulous” and “nugatory” aren’t a part of my regular vocabulary although a couple of the words on the list are. Whether you use them or not, there is a good business point to be made by them.
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If you’re expecting me to say “words matter,” you’re wrong. It’s the meaning of the words that matter, which is something that the piece makes clear. Sometimes we hear words and don’t understand what’s being said. Oh sure, we think we do, but that’s where the issues arise. It’s not even as simple as not understanding the definitions of the words as this article shows. It’s getting the meaning along with the definition.
Part of that can be body language, which is why I’m a believer of in-person discussions whenever possible. It’s easy in an age of instant communication to just send a quick email but email lacks nuance. Part of it can be tone. How many times has a significant other said “I’m fine” to you when their tone tells you they’re anything but fine? That’s all part of meaning.
One thing I’ve learned from the dozens of lawyers with whom I’ve worked over the years is the need for precision in language. Knowing the real meaning of every word can be critical to business success and can prevent misunderstandings down the road. I’ll sometimes ask people with whom I’m discussing business issues to state them in another way. It gets to the true meaning behind the words since words (to use one from the article) are considered fungible by many folks. Often, they’re not.
Have you ever run into a situation where the words someone uses have meant something other than how you understood them? Tell me.
We had a little snow here over the weekend. You might have heard about it – all 30+ inches worth of it. Fortunately, we hunkered down and made it through without any damage of loss of power. By yesterday we had been plowed out and the streets were clear enough to venture out. Besides getting some fresh air, I got a quick business lesson I’d like to share. It’s the business equivalent of a poker “tell” – something a person does that is a dead giveaway as to how good or bad a hand they hold. In this case it has to do with how good or bad they are at business and it’s something you can use as well.
Driving around we saw an incredible number of cars with snow on their roofs. I’m not sure why but the majority of them seemed to be SUVs. Oh sure, I understand that its difficult to get all the snow off of the roof when the car is six feet tall. It takes a little extra effort and maybe a minute to find a broom. Apparently, that was too much for the folks behind the wheels of these vehicles, none of whom looked to be older than me (so age and infirmity are no excuse).
I know they suck at business. The snow on the roof is a dead giveaway. Driving behind one of these idiots is dangerous – we must have seen six or seven explosions of snow and ice blow off of the roofs as we drove down the parkway. Not that it makes a huge difference but this was not some dusting of snow that blew off – most of the cars had a least a foot of snow on them. Fortunately, we didn’t see any accidents but we did see several cars hit their brakes or swerve. Pretty dangerous.
I know they’re bad at business because they’re selfish and self-absorbed They can’t possibly put the needs of customers or clients ahead of their own desires They can’t stop thinking about themselves long enough to listen to an employees cry for help. They can’t make products that appeal to others. They’re too “Me”-focused. If they weren’t, they’d take the time to think about the drivers sharing the road with them.
An over-reaction on my part? Tell me.