Monthly Archives: January 2015

Show Me The Money

I read something this morning in USAToday that sparked a thought.  I was reading through the various Super Bowl stories and came across a piece on player movement on the Seattle Seahawks.  This was what piqued my interest:  

Michael Bennett had a more lucrative offer to leave the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent last March. But the standout defensive lineman chose to re-sign with the defending champions on a four-year, $28.5 million contract.

His logic was fairly simple.

“If you win, you’ll get more money,” Bennett said Wednesday. “If you’re a champion, people love you more. You get more stuff. You get to hang out. You get to be on TV.

“You can make a lot of money and be on a terrible team, and people don’t even recognize you.”

You may be thinking “what the heck does this have to do with my business, Keith?” but hear me out.  Every one of us at some point gets the opportunity to change jobs.  When we do so, I’d encourage each of us to approach it much the way Mr Bennett has.  Look at the team and the possibility for long-term success.  Being a member of a great team rubs off both in terms of how we’re perceived in the world as well as the standard to which we hold ourselves.  Being the best player of a lousy team may make you financially rich but being a part of a champion team makes you richer beyond your wallet.

It’s also something we need to get our employees to consider.  More money is great.  Is it enough to make up for the damage to your reputation caused by being a member of a lousy business?  What’s are the job prospects beyond the lucrative one?  How long will the terrible team be in business?  The onus is on us to run a championship team.  The onus is on our employees to choose wisely.

Food for thought…

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Reality checks

Expecting Epic, Experiencing Normal

Those of you outside of the northeastern US may have heard that we had a little snow storm here the other day. I got a call from one of my Canadian pals who was inquiring about the devastation foisted upon my home and family. After all, there was virtually no pre-storm shrieking before Buffalo received 8 feet of snow and since CNN had gone wall to wall with blizzard coverage, what was about to hit NYC, Boston, and elsewhere MUST be truly epic.

National Weather Service Caption "Two fee...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not so much.

When I told him that Rancho Deluxe had received barely a foot and the winds were quite a bit less than the hurricane forces many had predicted, he laughed and said “Yeah, up here we call that winter.” I laughed but a business thought popped into my head at the same time.

The nonstop weather warnings, the closure of mass transit and highways, the empty shelves at every supermarket in town all served to set expectations. When the all-time blizzard turned into a large but not record snow event, those expectations were not met. That was fine with me – better safe than sorry. A number of people, however, were actually angry and a meteorologist with the National Weather Service even took to Twitter to apologize for raising expectations and getting it wrong.

The business point is pretty obvious. Overselling and under delivering always means problems. All of us in business need to be careful about how we set expectations and err on the side of caution.  We all go to the airport these days expecting 45 minutes in the security line, a flight on which we’re packed in like cattle, and delays, delays, delays.  Our expectations are so low that when things are actually OK we think it was a great flight.  When our fast-food sandwich looks nothing like the poster hanging on the wall, we shrug our shoulders and eat – who expected anything more?

Your business shouldn’t cause customers to think that their experience with your brand will suck but neither should they believe that what they are about to receive will be the blizzard of 2015.  You need to set realistic expectations and over deliver on them.  If they walk away thinking they got a good value, even if they paid top dollar, everyone wins.  If not, you’ll spend a lot of time digging yourself out, much as we were doing yesterday.  Make sense?

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Filed under Consulting, Thinking Aloud

Trust These Numbers

The folks at Edelman are out with their latest Trust Barometer and the results are interesting. Of course, one can ask “why are they important?” As the study’s sponsors put it:

Trust is a forward-facing metric of stakeholder expectation. It is an asset that institutions must understand and properly build in order to be successful in today’s complex world.

I agree. So what did they find?

The study surveyed 6,000 “informed publics” aged 25-64 across 27 markets, finding that online search engines are now the most trusted source of general news. Search also widened its lead over newspapers and TV as the first source for general information and the source used by most to confirm and validate news.

In other words, what you and I might consider as traditional media sources of news and information have fallen behind search engines.  Not surprising in some ways since the “always on” version of traditional media is skewed one way or another with respect to how things are reported. The issue with search is “garbage in – garbage out“.  While algorithms tend to give more weight to “credible” sources such as the same traditional media outlets we might discount on other platforms, many of the highly read digital sources pop up on search engine result pages on an equal footing.  The obvious issue is that many of the newer outlets offer as much quality control as a blind man in a paint factory.

That said, once you become a source, you stay there:

  • Friends and family (72%) and academic experts (70%) are the most trusted sources of information consumed by informed publics on social networking sites, content sharing sites, and online-only information sources. Informed publics are almost twice as likely to trust content created by companies they use (60%) as content from brands they don’t use (32%).
  • 8 in 10 informed publics have chosen to buy products and services from a company they trust during the past year, and 68% have recommended them to a friend or colleague.

So whom do you trust?  More importantly, what are you doing to cultivate trust among your stakeholders?


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Filed under Consulting, digital media

Mr. Kanso

Foodie Friday, and today we have something a little on the weird side.  It’s a chain of “restaurants” (you’ll see why I’m using quotes in a second) in Japan called Mr. Kanso.  The first one opened in Osaka in 2002 and became so successful that it now has 17 other locations across Japan.  This is a pretty good summary of the business:

Mr. Kanso has no menus, only shelves stacked with hundreds of different types of canned food from across the globe. Customers choose from such delicacies as “Todo niku kare” (sealion curry), canned cocktail sausages, French salad, and whale meat (tut tut, Mr. Kanso) – all served cold in a can and gobbled up with plastic cutlery.

That’s right – diners visit Mr. Kanso and select their food from a shelf.  It’s not heated up, just opened.  As best I can determine, these are not the same cans one can find in a market.  All of them have a Mr. Kanso label so I’m assuming the chain has them made to their specifications.  I don’t get it from a consumer perspective although I guess if the contents of the cans are really yummy it makes a bit more sense.  Honestly, Hokkaido bear curry isn’t really my can of tea but apparently it’s the variety that keeps customers coming back for more.  There is, however an interesting business point here.

Think about it.  No cooking means no kitchen and no cooks.  The start-up costs are substantially lower than those of a regular restaurant.  The food doesn’t spoil, at least not in days or weeks.  The food is reasonably priced – drinks run about $5 and the cans cost between $2 and $20 (I’m not sure what that one contains) and the margins must be excellent.  The cutlery gets thrown away so no dishwashers.  In short, it’s a low investment cost, high margin business.  As long as the appeal is there, and it certainly seems to be, this is exactly the sort of model any of us can emulate.

Honestly, if a Mr. Kanso came to my town I’d probably go check it out.  Reasonably-priced food with an amazing selection has some appeal even if the dining experience has less.  The business appeal, however, is first-rate.  Thoughts?

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Filed under Consulting, food

To Whom Are You Speaking?

Everywhere one turns these days there is content. In the old days that content was sourced from entertainment or news organizations which had the consumer’s tastes in mind. After all, the program distributor paid the content creator based on how many eyeballs that content could attract.
Lately, of course, everyone is creating content. You, me (that’s what this is!), and brands. I don’t really have an issue with that. The digisphere is a bully pulpit with room for lots of us. There is something with which I do have an issue, however.

Content assembled by brands comes in two forms. One is the advertising many of you have been trained since birth to avoid. The other is that “branded content” that shows up via “content marketing.” No, not another rant on that subject – I’ve bored you to tears with them already I’m sure. This rant is different.

Here is a tidbit from the folks at Corporate Visions:

More than 70% of respondents do not follow a clearly defined message development process within their organization, while a 10% reported they aren’t sure what their company does at all.

In other words, chaos. Into that vacuum usually steps some well-meaning sales-type who pushes the messaging toward “sell.” This is company-centric messaging. I can’t imagine anything more boring to most people. “We’re better because blah blah blah”. Boring.

Smart companies that have their message creation together do customer-centric messaging. They focus on identifying customers’ and prospects’ unconsidered needs.  They’re there to inform, to entertain, to listen, to help; not to sell.  They’re speaking to the consumer, not at them.  They’er certainly not speaking to their own needs or to make themselves feel as if they’re got the message out there.

So to whom are you speaking?

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Filed under Consulting, Helpful Hints

Is Tech Hurting Our Kids?

This was kind of a disturbing thought:

According to Havas Worldwide‘s “New Dynamics of Family” report, one in three adults say technology is destroying family life, and half believe that allowing a child unrestricted access to the Internet is a form of child abuse. Some 92% of children have a digital footprint by the age of two, and now, most adults believe digital technology and the Internet are ruining childhood.

How do you feel about that?  I mean we’ve all seen a two-year old handle an iPad or cellphone.  Did they seem as if they were being abused?  Not to overstate the point since it really wasn’t the focus of the study but it does get one thinking.  You can read more about it here.

We raised two children just as the digital age was dawning.  Most of our family time was spent doing things outdoors although once the first Playstation hit our home we played video games together as well.  Not every day and not in lieu of other things.  At the end of the day I think blaming technology is misplaced.  Yes, an iPad is a convenient babysitter although all it has done for some is to take the place of the television. Why is it ok to park your kid in front of Sesame Street but not ok for them to play with the Sesame Street app?

I could make the opposite argument.  Not allowing kids to understand technology or the social sphere is worse.  Going forward the world is going to become more technologically based (although hopefully with better, more intuitive, self-correcting interfaces).  Kids need those skills.  They need to understand what is appropriate to share and what isn’t.  I agree that the kid who does nothing but communicate with a video game controller to the exclusion of human interaction is going to have issues.  It’s our job as parents to make sure there is a mix of real and virtual.  Excluding either one is bad in my book.

How do you feel about this?

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Filed under Reality checks, Thinking Aloud

Listening And Leading

I started to write another post about Dr. King in celebration of his birthday.  I went back to something I had written in 2011 which in turn went back to something from 2009.  In all candor, I stopped trying to write a new one after heading out into rants on the subject of race relations today. Since we don’t do politics here I’m reposting the older screed. Maybe in honor of Dr. King you’ll go see “Selma”, as imperfect as that film is, and reflect on his message.  

Today is the day we pause to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday.  I went back and looked at my post from two years ago, which was about dreams – specifically one of Dr. King’s dreams becoming a reality.  That was sort of focused on what he saw – his vision.  Today I want to focus on one of the great man’s best qualities that influenced how he acted to make that vision real.  I think it’s applicable to business.  No, it’s not going to be another ethics rant (although those are never out of style in my book).  Today, it’s about the most important skill I think all great businesspeople – and great leaders – posses.

To me, great leaders serve to fulfill the needs of their people.  For Dr. King, it meant endless meetings with various groups to understand their concerns and explain how broadening civil liberties to be more inclusive could help meet them.  For those of us in business, it means paying more attention to the concerns of our customers and co-workers than to our own agenda – these folks ARE our agenda to a certain extent, along with the underlying needs of our businesses.  In a word – listen.

Everyone wants to feel as if their ideas and thoughts are being heard if not acted upon. Without someone hearing them, action on those concerns is impossible. Listening, then speaking, brings trust.

I know this isn’t a new thought in this space but it came to mind on this day thinking of Dr. King.  If you go back to the early days of Dr. King’s involvement in the civil rights movement, it’s pretty clear that he was a reluctant leader. He was drafted to lead and was kind of unsure of himself.  As he listened to the members of the community and other clergy, he realized that he was simply a voice for the community and their agenda became his agenda.

Many of you will be familiar with Stephen R. Covey, who wrote that we ought to “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  I think Dr. King, if he read pop-psychology, would have appreciated that.

What are you listening to today?

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Filed under Helpful Hints, What's Going On