December 30, 2016 · 10:41 am
If you read this screed with any regularity, you know that Friday’s topic is always food-related. The post below is the most-read foodie post of 2016. It was published last January and was originally called “Ripe.” It was a rumination on a banana and businesses that forego strategy for speed. As you’ll read, I’m not a fan of racing to the wrong destination, or to no destination at all. Amazing where one banana can take you, isn’t it? A healthy and happy New Year to you all. On to 2017!
It’s Foodie Friday and this week’s post is inspired by my breakfast. My weekday breakfast almost always involves a banana, and this morning’s banana looked yummy until I actually bit in. It was not really ripe enough. The texture was too hard for my taste and the flavors hadn’t really matured. In fact, it was kind of tasteless and quite unsatisfying. The banana would definitely have benefited from another day or two of ripening.
Despite my day not being off to a great start, a business point popped into my head. Many businesses suffer from the same phenomenon as the banana (although honestly, I am not blaming the banana for being eaten too soon). We don’t let things ripen and we move overly fast. I see this with some clients who forget the original business plan when a new opportunity presents itself, losing sight of what had got the business to this point. That sort of action – moving too fast away from what was a good idea – does nothing but engender short-term thinking.
Failing to let the business ripen also means you’ve not got enough customer feedback. It takes time to scale, and even if you enjoy explosive growth, it takes time for both the business and your customers to figure out what feedback is meaningful based on repeat engagements, etc. You would much rather hear from a customer who has purchased and used your product several times that a one-time experience.
You need to ripen to assess the right size of your staff. You need to ripen to estimate what your real operating costs are and will be. To the extent scale improves product costs, you need to ripen in order to make that assessment. Finally, you need to ripen to ascertain what your real capital needs are. Early cash flow won’t be as promising as it will become down the road (hopefully) but those needs don’t present themselves right away.
I am all for moving quickly, particularly when a company is young. Haste, however, can make waste when that speed and a failure to let things ripen means a loss of focus. Make sense?
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December 29, 2016 · 11:34 am
What follows is the most-read post I published during this past year. We’ll have the most-read Foodie Friday post tomorrow. Originally titled “Why I Might Have Unfollowed You,” I wrote this right after Election Day. I was sort of hopeful at the time that a lot of the vitriol and outright lying that had lead up to that day would stop. It didn’t and hasn’t, but having unfollowed a number of the worst offenders in my feed has helped. I’m also gratified that the concerns over “fake news” have grown large enough that they’re finally being addressed. Of course, I’m not sure some people branding The NY Times or other legitimate news outlets as fake moves the discussion forward. In any event, I’m glad that this was the most read post because it was really one of the most heartfelt ones I wrote this year.
I have been at this blogging thing for over 2,000 posts and 8 years (May of 2008, actually) and I’ve yet to write a political post. Today may be the closest I’ve come although obviously, I’ve used politics to help us appreciate some business points along the way.
I’ve stopped following a few people on Facebook in the last few days, something I’ve rarely done and usually only when the accounts get filled with spam. The folks I unfollowed are people I know personally – I tend not to be Facebook friends with most business associates or random friends of friends. I unfollowed them because this election has brought out the worst in them. I don’t mean that I disagree with their point of view. Many of my closest friends and I hold diametrically opposed political views. I mean that they’ve stopped supporting their views with any sort of facts and are choosing to ignore the facts when they’re presented to them. They are living in the horrible confirmational bias reality that tells them sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism are not only OK but the real voice of America as evidenced by this election.
They go on to criticize people for exercising their First Amendment rights to assemble and protest in vitriolic hateful posts. They continue to post outright lies which are easily disproven with a brief search. They dismiss sources such as CNN and the NY Times as biased and won’t believe anything they report, mostly because they disagree with them. They forget that a majority of America voted for a woman and a liberal agenda. Rather than contemplating how to be inclusive of that agenda as we move forward, they post about “taking back” the country, I guess from the majority who voted the other way. They fail to condemn miscreants who bully, threaten, and harm fellow citizens. Their children behave the same way in school. This is shameful, and denying the facts doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
So I unfollowed them. I welcome the opportunity to discuss politics with folks of all sides as long as we stick to the facts and don’t engage in ad hominem attacks. Hypocrisy is a no-no as well (look up what our newly-elected President was saying four years ago about the unfairness of a popular vote win not translating into an Electoral College win and how people should be marching in the streets!). Those are things I try to do in business as well and so should you. In the meantime, let’s remember that our system doesn’t deny the minority party any ability to influence policy (witness the last 8 years of Republicans slowing/changing/denying Obama‘s policies) and that in two years there’s another chance to change things again.
I’m sorry for using this platform to get his off my chest. I hope you’ve not had to unfollow folks and your friends are more rational than some of mine seem to be. I’m hoping everyone will just calm down a bit and work to be the change each of us wants to see in the world while not building walls. I don’t mean on our borders but those between our fellow citizens and ourselves. The people I unfollowed were doing just that and I’m not having any of it. You?
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December 28, 2016 · 10:57 am
This post was written last April and was originally called “Hanging On.” Ostensibly it was about reexamining all of the things we do in our businesses. As I’m rereading it I think it was also about grasping that collecting “stuff” can sometimes get in the way of success, however you care to define that word.
The house is still on the market but all the detritus is long gone. If I accomplished anything in 2016, this post just might explain what it was.
We’re selling our home. The kids are grown and living on their own. We don’t need all the space and the property is too large and expensive to maintain. In other words, we’re doing the downsizing (or rightsizing!) that many folks in our situation do. Obviously, a lot of “stuff” has aggregated over the 30+ years we’ve been in the house and we spent many hours over the last few weeks decluttering.
This past weekend was spent scanning old tax returns and putting the supporting documents into a “shred” box. Why were we hanging on to receipts from anything beyond the 3 years the IRS recommends? Who knows. We also found (and put in the shred box) canceled checks from every decade beginning in the late 1970’s. That was long before banks did everything electronically and held scanned copies for you. I guess we got in the habit of filing them away.
In addition to the financial documents, we tossed (or donated) things that had sat in the basement or the attic for many years without anyone missing them. It’s nice, for example, that nearly every sporting event I attending during my years in sports TV gave out a duffel bag of some sort but having 20 bags in the attic gathering dust when someone somewhere needs one is silly, right?
So here is the question for you. When was the last time you took a look at the “stuff” hanging around your business? I don’t mean extra duffel bags or canceled checks. All the detritus we collect over the years is due in part to a process we have in place. When was the last time you examined the things, processes, etc. – to which you’re hanging on and why?
It’s not just a matter of freeing up space. It also means you question each thing you touch and its relevance to your business moving forward. I found a number of things (an automatic pasta maker, a countertop deep fryer) that I won’t ever use again but were hanging around the basement. I rarely eat pasta anymore and it takes less time to make it by hand then it does to clean the machine after a use. Why was I hanging on to it?
Old habits die hard, especially in business. We need to stop hanging on and get our proverbial business houses cleaned up. It makes wherever we decide to go next a much easier move. You with me?
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