Category Archives: Helpful Hints

Independence Day 2020

Way back when in 2008, I wrote this about the holiday we’re celebrating this weekend. Given the pandemic, we’re enduring and a virus that spreads uncontrollably unless each of us takes care to protect ourselves and others, it seems appropriate to publish it again. Sorry, no food this Friday, other than the food for thought I hope this provides. Stay safe, wash your hands, wear ya damn mask, and enjoy the 4th!

It’s going on July 4th and to all of us raised on the Red, White, and Blue we know it’s a day (OK, a long weekend) during which we can celebrate the fundamental principles that make the US of A what it is.  No, I’m not going to venture into politics (although it IS an election year and there’s a LOT to talk about).  What I do want to write about is the contradiction of the “independence day” term.

The Constitution (I know – a bit after the Declaration) begins with the word “we.”  We The People.  Not “me.”  The independence rightly celebrated this weekend is, to me , about the specific rights and freedoms we have to be ourselves as a people, with all the quirks that make us unique.  WE are independent from other folks (Great Britain, specifically, long ago) but NOT from one another.  I’ve spent the last 30+ years learning how critical having a strong bunch of folks around you is as well as setting the bar high in terms of with whom you do business as best you can.  Why?  Because the better they are, the better you become.  As I’ve transitioned from corporate life to consulting, the friends and business friends I’ve made over the last 30 years have been an unbelievable support network, even for a guy who is now independent.

Jack Ingram puts it well in his song “We’re All In This Together“:

We all think we’re special
And I hate to have to say
There’s a bunch of us on every corner
Of any town U.S.A.
We all got our problems
We all pay our dues
So if you’re thinking no one understands
I’ve got news for you

Chorus

We’re all in this together
Whether we like it or not
So we might as well have a good time
With the little piece of time we got
Life’s too short to fuss and fight
So we might as well be friends
‘Cause we’re all in this together
Together till the bitter end

So Happy July 4th.  Enjoy being independent.  Together.

Leave a comment

Filed under Helpful Hints, What's Going On

Fewer Oreos, More Profit

It’s always good that Foodie Friday follows my shopping day, which is Thursday (gotta get that senior discount – Thursday only!). If you aren’t the primary shopper in your house and you haven’t been to a grocery store lately, you probably haven’t noticed that the shelves are less-full than usual. It’s not just the meat case (you’ve probably heard about the issues with meatpacking plants during the pandemic) or the toilet paper aisles that are on the empty side either. I’ve noticed lots of gaps.

It turns out that while it’s due to the current crisis, it might not be for the reasons you think. As CNN reported:

It’s also because major food companies — the ones that make our cookies, chips, and canned soups — have been paring down their product offerings. When stay-at-home orders went into effect this spring, Mondelez, General Mills, PepsiCo, J.M. Smucker, Campbell, Coca-Cola, and others saw a massive spike in demand for some products. To help meet that increase, they sped up production lines on their most popular items -— and that meant cutting back on more fringe offerings. That translates to fewer varieties of Jif peanut butter, Oreo cookies, and Frito-Lay chips at the store.

In other words, they reverted to the Pareto Principle and focused on the items that brought them the most revenue and profits and didn’t worry much about line extensions or the varieties that filled the shelves but not the corporate pockets, at least not as much as the main lines do.

Restaurants are doing much the same thing. Many places have trimmed their menus way back to focus on the most popular and profitable items. For example, Dave & Buster’s reduced its 40-item menu to 15 offerings and McDonald’s has cut salads, bagels, yogurt parfaits, and all-day breakfast during the crisis. IHOP used to have a 12-page menu. Now it’s giving guests a 2-page, disposable menu. This should improve economies of scale, simplify ordering supplies, make it easier on the staff, etc. 

Less can be more and the exercise that these businesses have conducted to deal with a crisis is something that your business might consider as well. What services are you providing that are less attractive or less profitable? Is your product line overextended? Is it better to focus on the more profitable sectors even if it costs you a few customers? Something to think about this weekend!

1 Comment

Filed under food, Helpful Hints

You Get What You Pay For

The amount of news and information that comes my way is overwhelming much of the time. I suspect you feel the same way. The hardest part isn’t digesting all of it. Nope. What’s most difficult is knowing what’s fact-based and what’s made up out of whole cloth. One study found that 67% of U.S. respondents said they’re “concerned about what is real and fake on the internet when it comes to news.”

I’m sure you’ve seen the articles about how to spot real news and there are lots of fact-checking sites available to you if you’re willing to use them. And you should. There’s another way of which I’m fond and it seems that during the stay at home period many other folks are figuring this way out as well.

Pay for it!


Yep, shell out a couple of bucks a week and pay for fact-checked news that is written with what we used to call journalistic principles. It turns out this isn’t exactly a revelation to everyone, at least not according to this piece from the Publishers Daily:

The percentage of Americans who pay for online news subscriptions is up 4% compared to last year, according to a new, extensive report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. The “Digital News Report” for 2020 surveyed more than 80,000 people in 40 countries about their digital news consumption. The percentage of people in the U.S. who pay for news is 20%, up from 16% last year.

Now, of course, the study also found that 40% in the U.S. say that nothing could persuade them to pay for an online news subscription. Then again, there are folks who still believe that the world is flat. The good news is that many people are using what I’ll call the pay filter to screen out noise. It’s good news for publishers who have been struggling. In fact, Gannett, the biggest newspaper chain in the U.S., saw an 85% yearly jump in net new subscriptions over the last few months. Those are mostly local newspapers. Of course, there is the challenge of keeping those subscribers as they go back to work, etc. but my guess is that getting fact-based news and information will outweigh the cost. Remember, you generally get what you pay for in this world.

We’re coming up on a big election. No matter how you choose to vote, the more you know about the issues and candidates’ positions on the ones that are most important to you, the better. Better information yields better decisions, right? 

Leave a comment

Filed under digital media, Helpful Hints, Thinking Aloud