Tag Archives: business thinking

Simply Great

It’s Foodie Friday and even though it’s November, it’s also Masters weekend. For any golf fan, The Masters Tournament is one of the highlights of the year and since we had to wait an additional 7 months for it this year, it’s even more special. While it’s always been a harbinger of Spring and the golf season to come, this year it’s wrapping up the year and it’s very different. No azaleas, no patrons (fans, to you), and, I’m told, none of the food that makes the Masters experience so unique.

If you’ve never been, this event is unique for many reasons. The biggest unique thing is that it is exceptionally fan-friendly when it comes to food. You see, the folks who put this tournament on are really not all that interested in making a ton of money off of their patrons. Unlike, say, the US Open Tennis, where a sandwich will set you back close to $20, a sandwich here costs $1.50. Not a typo, and the egg salad and the pimento cheese sandwiches are the stuff of legend. The sausage biscuit you’d pay $4 at Bojangles is also $1.50.

Ask any fan who has attended the tournament and I’m willing to bet you that they’ll mention the food, maybe even before they talk about the golf. A Georgia Peach Ice Cream Sandwich ($2) is so good that folks have been known to smuggle dry ice onto the grounds to take several home with them.

What makes the food so good? Well, first, it’s very simple. No fancy burgers. The most expensive food item is the $4 Bar-B-Que (that’s how it’s listed) sandwich. It’s not great barbecue but it’s still pretty tasty. Egg salad, pimento cheese, turkey clubs, and a chicken sandwich – all very basic. You could make everything they serve at home quite easily. The difference is it’s all really good, and because it doesn’t cost a month’s rent, I think whatever small shortcomings there might be are overlooked. You can buy the entire menu for the price of the fancy burgers sold at many places and several beers here for the price of one at any stadium. It’s simple and it’s great.

It’s a good lesson for any of us in business. Consumers are looking for great value (Walmart’s house brand is called that for a reason!) and when the product is not only a decent price but also is really good, you’ve got a winner. This food solves the “I’m hungry” problem exceptionally well. We all need to identify the problem we’re solving and do so better than anyone else. If we can do it at a great price, it’s game over.

I’ll make pimento cheese to watch the tournament and maybe some egg salad too. It’s won’t be the same as being in Augusta and maybe not as good (food always tastes better at the game, don’t you think?). It will remind me that The Masters is my favorite golf tournament for more reasons than the golf. How can you have your customers thinking that way about you?

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Filed under Consulting, food, What's Going On

Lessons From Mom And Dad

Among the myriad reasons 2020 has been an absolute horrorshow is the passing of both my mother and father. Dad left us back in July and, as my sister and I have been saying would happen for years, Mom was right behind him 90 days later.

As I’m sitting here unpacking the boxes of stuff from their apartment, a lot of thoughts are crossing my mind. I don’t know if it’s a form of therapy or just a desire to share some lessons they taught me that I know are useful to any of us in business but today is about them.

I wrote some words for each funeral. I wasn’t able to attend in person because of the pandemic. In Dad’s eulogy, I wrote that

Those three senses – the importance of family, of taking responsibility, and of being humble – were things I know he tried to convey to the three of us.

In business, I would mean a family in the broadest sense. Your business family – your coworkers, your partners, your suppliers and most of all your customers are what’s important. I did expand on the responsibility part later on:

Any time I went to Dad with a question, the answer was inevitably the same: do what you think is right. It was never “do what’s expedient” nor what’s easy. Do what you think is right based on all the information you have…When we were wrong, Dad never asked why we made a bad decision but reminded us that we’d tried our best and we’d do better next time.

I’ve been in toxic work situations where bad decisions were followed by long periods of blame-placing and recriminations. The lessons learned usually led to paralysis. If you don’t make any decisions, you can’t make any bad ones. People were more focused on finding another job than on advancing the organizational goals.

In Mom’s eulogy, I expanded a bit on that lesson:

So much of what was true about Mom was true about Dad. Certainly the importance of family and of taking responsibility. “Actions have consequences,” she would remind us, both good and bad. Consequences could be pleasurable or, as I found out often enough, not so much…At the height of the Vietnam War protests, like many my age I informed Mom I was going to skip school for Moratorium Day and go march. Skipping school pretty much for any reason was not ok and doing so to participate in a march as a newly-minted high school freshman when I should be learning where the heck my locker was was even worse. Mom’s response was pretty much “do what you think is right.” Maybe she was looking ahead a few short years when her son would be draft-eligible but I prefer to think she was telling me to use my brain, make good choices, and be prepared to live with the consequences. If I recall I was informed those consequences would not involve her posting my bail had I been arrested.

This is perhaps my pet peeve, both in and out of business. Some folks just won’t take responsibility for their actions. It’s always someone else’s fault or bad luck or the weather or ANYTHING but their own doing. The pandemic, for example, wasn’t any of our doing. How we’re managing our businesses and our own health is completely our own doing.

Here’s the last lesson and it’s one my folks probably didn’t know they were conveying. My parents worked very hard their entire lives. Like many of us, they accumulated a lot of stuff. As time went on, there were fewer and fewer things as homes were sold and downsizing occurred. When they couldn’t live on their own anymore, more things were given away or sold. Finally, here at the end, my sister and I and their grandchildren received some boxes with pictures and mementos. Not much “stuff.”

I guess I’m trying to remind us that “stuff” doesn’t last. What matters are the memories in those pictures and the people who keep you and your memory alive. Try to remember that when you’re pushing yourself to make more money to buy more stuff. If there is a silver lining to the horror of this year, it just might be that we all got a little time at home to reflect on what’s important.

I’m thankful for the lessons my Mom and Dad taught me. I hope you find these few of them useful.

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Reality checks, Thinking Aloud

The Smoke Alarm Reminded Me

We lost power last night. There is a curve in the road near our neighborhood that apparently is difficult to negotiate although I’ve never found it to be so. At the apex of the curve, there is a utility pole that the folks who can’t manage to keep their rubber on the road hit with some regularity. That, in turn, kills power to several neighborhoods, mine being among them.

The real darkness and quiet (no ambient light, no fan) woke me up. After spending a minute worrying that the power would be out long enough to defrost all the contents of the freezer, I heard the unmistakable chirp of a smoke alarm. Not the shriek of a problem, but the chirp of an alarm whose battery had died. Our system is hard-wired into the house’s electrical system so the battery’s life is rarely an issue. It was last night.

I tried to ignore it. It wasn’t the unit in my room but the one about as far from me as could be. The chirp that came each minute disturbed the dogs, who are terrified by the alarms. You’ve never seen three “fearless” beasts shake like Jello when a little smoke from the oven sets off the system (all the alarms go off when one goes off). Still, I tried to go back to sleep despite the chirping from the alarm and the whining from the dogs. I figured if I ignored the problem, the power would come back on shortly and all would be well.

Eventually, I was right. The power did come back on. Not before I got out of bed and found that one alarm was glowing red (they normally glow green) and reset it which didn’t solve the problem. Not before I got out of bed a second time and found a step stool to reset the chirping alarm in the hope that the chirping would cease. Not before I removed the battery from the singing siren despite the fact that I didn’t have a fresh battery to put in. But several hours later, the power came back on.

Did that solve the problem? Nope. The alarm kept on letting me know that the battery I’d reinserted was no good. It wasn’t until I remembered that one of my tools had a 9-volt battery I could swap in that the chirping ended. In other words, it wasn’t until I addressed the problem head-on and with a solution I know was required but was reluctant or unable to provide.

It was a good reminder. We often ignore potential problems until they happen. We’ve lived in this house for 18 months but haven’t changed the smoke alarm batteries since the system doesn’t run on batteries. We often attempt to minimize the problems (but the power DIDN’T come right back on). A small problem can lead to bigger problems. No battery leads to frightened dogs which leads to no sleep. We try to force solutions that we know won’t work but are easier for us instead of doing what we know is required. 

Take the time to do routine maintenance. Look for potential problems and anticipate the solutions. Don’t wait for the alarm to chirp about anything in your business. Make sense?

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Filed under Consulting, Thinking Aloud