Monthly Archives: February 2014

Rain Delays

I’m a fan of motor sports and yesterday was one of the biggest events in racing: The Daytona 500.

English: Cars coming the the line to start the...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Say what you like about NASCAR beginning their season with their Super Bowl, but the race generally lives up to its “Great American Race” nickname. Yesterday the rain came to Daytona and stopped the race a bit after it had started. In 21012, the race got delayed until Monday, so rain in Florida is not that unusual a circumstance (despite what the Florida Tourism folks would have you believe). Which of course got me thinking about rain delays.

When rain hits a live sporting event, many people are affected.  The broadcasters who have to fill the time with interesting programming so they don’t lose their audience.  The athletes who have to maintain their mental focus and stay physically loose until they can get back into competition.  The facility which has to handle an influx of fans who have nothing to do but eat and drink while they wait and expect the concession stands to be able to handle the increased traffic without a hitch.  I was always amazed during my years in sports broadcasting how well the producers and crew had prepared for the rain.  Not just the programming they had ready but also how the crew had the proper rain equipment to function without a hitch.  Which is the business point.

Every business faces rain delays.  Clients who ask you to come to a meeting to do a deal but whose lawyers suddenly have a bunch of new issues.  Vendors who didn’t get a shipment of product in from overseas and who, therefore, can’t replenish your inventory.  Then there are the literal rain delays that cause construction to be behind schedule.  The analyst who is very good but who takes FOREVER to get you critical numbers (better known as a human rain delay).

We can’t control the weather.  We can only control our preparation and how we deal with it.  Champions are the ones who keep their focus and proceed as if the rain had never happened.   Are you ready for that?

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Casual Dining Isn’t A Casual Decision

For our Foodie Friday Fun this week let’s think about dining out.

Guess what type of restaurant we photoshooted

(Photo credit: A&A Photography Services)

In tough economic times, that’s not an easy decision for many people and the restaurant industry has felt that over the last few years.  More on that in a minute.  Where to eat?  In many places there really aren’t many alternatives to the big national chains.  As with booksellers, coffee shops, and clothing stores, many of the little guys have been undercut by the chains, at least when it comes to price and in many cases quality.  So you’d think that the national chains, particularly the casual dining chains, would be doing well.  You’d be wrong.

As a recent article stated:

The casual-dining industry has largely worn out its welcome. Customer traffic to these restaurants has declined in nine of the past 13 years, according to retail-research firm Black Box Intelligence. Even as the U.S. economy began healing and consumer spending recovered, beginning in 2010, same-store sales were stagnant, based on Black Box estimates.  In December, industry-wide sales at restaurants open at least a year slid by 2%, even as the unemployment rate hit a five-year low and the stock market hit all-time highs. For sure, harsh weather didn’t help, but that can’t account for tepid nationwide results.

This raises a few instructive questions in my mind.  Turns out that in the process of upscaling fast-food and undercutting fancier local places on price these chains – Applebees, TGIFridays, Red Lobster and others – left a niche that’s suddenly being filled by Chipotle and others.  They’re getting beaten not just on price (a relatively easy thing to fix) but also on quality of ingredients and food served.  As we’ve seen many times here on the screed, if price is the only thing you have going for you, you’re in trouble.

The reality is that casual dining out is not a casual decision these days.  Cooking at home can be an attractive alternative when one figures in time and cost but who wants to clean up?  Even those of us who are dedicated cooks like a night off.  Most folks prefer to spend that night in a welcoming environment with interesting food.  The chains seem to be duplicating what a decent home cook could do (and generally in a less-healthy manner but that’s another rant).  Consumers also see that they raise prices by offering smaller portions or offering cheaper, lower-quality meals.  Charging for every drink refill may help margin but angers customers (especially if you don’t tell them you’re charging until the bill comes).

Any business needs to give customers a reason to buy.  That means a great product that meets customers’ desires that’s priced fairly and supported by great service.  That’s how I see it.  You?

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Experienced Thinking

I was driving home the other day and passed a local pub.

aldous huxley

This place often puts a quote on a blackboard outside and when you get stopped at the traffic light you have a chance to read it.  The quote the other day was from Aldous Huxley and read as follows:

“Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.”

Think about that not just in terms of your own personal experience but that of your business as well.  Many businesses have had the misfortune to figure out their business model is wrong or that they misjudged cash flow.  Some go under; some rethink how they’re doing what they’re doing or even if what they’re doing is right.  They’re the ones that dealt with what happened and gained experience.

This morning the news is filled with Facebook‘s purchase of What’sApp for $19 Billion.  There are also copies of the founder’s tweets that he sent when he didn’t get hired at Twitter or at Facebook.  Many people have had that happen.  He took those rejections and did something with them.  That experience made him a very wealthy man.

You can get knocked down and lie there or you can get up and fight again.  Your call.

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