Any good trial lawyer will tell you, “Communication is irreversible.” Once it’s out there—spoken, texted, tweeted, blogged, e-mailed—it’s out there. No amount of backpedalling, apologizing or denying can undo the damage that a slip of the keys or the tongue can create. Carpenters say, “Measure twice, cut once.” In business the rule should probably be, “Think twice, speak once.”
August 2012 - PS Insights
NYC Mayor Ed Koch used to regularly ask reporters and citizens, “How’m I doing?” A rather direct—and in Ed’s case—charming form of market research. But how do you know how you’re doing? Do you regularly ask your clients? Do you survey your clients or customers to get a feel for what they really think of you? Do you have third party players get feedback for you? Knowing what your business partners think of you at all times is likely the best way to make sure they remain your business partners. What are you waiting for?
Beware bright, shiny objects. QR Codes came on the scene a couple of years ago and have done very little. What was supposed to be Quick Response for more in depth digital information just hasn’t gotten any real consumer uptake. That doesn’t mean we won’t be engaging with deeper digital connections. We absolutely will. But sometimes the new play of the moment comes a bit before its time has come. Do you vet your new initiatives to be sure your customers want them?
You’ve got to be mercenary to be merciful. We’re constantly amazed at the way non-profits—even the ones we’re involved with—run their business. There’s something about the phrase “not-for-profit” that seems to turn even good businesspeople into mush. Ironically, with uncertain and erratic cash flows, non-profits should probably be run MORE ruthlessly than most businesses rather than less. The most successful non-profits run as if they’re for profit organizations. And by the way, have you volunteered for anything today? (They need you!)
Pret a Manger (“Ready to Eat”) the British “fast food” joint has 32 locations in NYC. The one near our office just put a new sign in the window: “Pioneering Natural Food Since 1986.” Double oops. First of all, Pret hasn’t been in the States since 1986. And, second, it sounds like someone thought the restaurants should have a new positioning, but couldn’t find an ownable handle. Consumer perception would give the “Natural” handle to Whole Foods over Pret in a heartbeat. Too often we see “marketing Band-Aids” applied when a serious re-think and careful aim is what’s needed. Which are you doing?
Over the years, a lot of people have spent a lot of time thinking about how to be innovative in managing different businesses. They have advanced lots of good ideas in books, articles, and essays—they are enamoured of the concept “think outside the box.” Too often, we see business people rushing to re-invent the wheel when there’s a perfect solution available if they’d just look at the assets they already own. So sure, think outside the box—but only after you’ve searched thoroughly “inside the box.” It’s way less expensive, more risk free and financially rewarding.
One of our interns just became second runner up to Miss Connecticut. At first, we thought this whole enterprise was a trivial pursuit. But in observing her discipline, teamwork and maturation the process put her through, we’ve recalibrated our impressions. Hard work, tenacity and goal orientation are valuable character builders. What are you working really hard to achieve?
Ever heard of Joseph Murphy? He was “the Henry Ford of his day.” A St. Louis-based industrialist who provided America with every type of freight, rail and farm wagon we could need. But a funny thing happened to the wagon business: The automobile. And only the smallest handful of wagon builders-Studebaker and Duryea to name two-had the foresight to add “horseless” carriages to their product lineup. Are you scanning the horizon to see what “automobile” is looming to transform your business?
One of our interns—who only work with us one day a week—sent us an e-mail one glorious August morning asking if she could stay out in the Hamptons an extra day, which meant missing work that week. Neither one of us replied—leaving it to her to decide what to do. Responsibility is a powerful character trait. It’s learned over time, but we’re big believers in learning it young, integrating it completely and making it a life time practice. Being a person who can be depended on to do what they say and what they promise is a gift to be treasured. Not suntanned.
None of us ever likes the small type – the disclaimer. And this new practice of charging a 10¢ premium for gas paid with a credit card is annoying. We pull into the station only to see at the pump that we’re about to get bilked. How about posting one price, cash or credit? Figure out the profit point, make it easier for the customer and make your price promise, clean and clear. At the pump and in all facets of your business. No one wants a rip-off surprise.