The reason to exist.

Remember: Organizations exist to serve. Period. Leaders exist to serve. Period.-Tom Peters

Businesses/organizations often get sidetracked in the real reason for their existence. Sure our free enterprise system is based on making a profit. However, the fundamental purpose of any group is to satisfy a need.

Dealing with customers/people requires a “service” perspective. Organizations are there for the people. Not people for the organization. I remember, that at times customers were a challange….we had to use our best people skills….there was need….we (our business) had to satisfy that need in the best way possible.

The end result:

Service is far more rewarding than trying to gain the most money. Though some people will never get that.


It’s more than grapes.

I like a small glass of wine at meals and red wine is suppose to be good for you. I read Wine Spectator (I get it free). And I am not a wine conouisser….anything less than $10 a bottle is fine.

What is  fascinating are  the complexities of growing grapes….making the wine….and marketing the finished product. It seems that all of this is more an art than a science. Grape growers and wine makers have a variety of business models. There are large producers (100,000 +cases/yr.) and small guys (200 cases/yr).

Wine is grown globally….there are numerous vineyards even in NC….though CA, WA, OR are the largest wine-producing states.

I don’t completely understand the intricacies of wine….and even have to keep notecards on the various varieties. Yet the stories on how each grower/winemaker produce and market their products are great lessons on developing and growing a business.


Change? When? How?

A friend wrote:

“Even when a promising path forward is found, the future will remain ambiguous, that is, difficult to read and marked by unexpected outcomes. Leaders who require certainty, stability, predictability and tested answers will struggle with such a future.”

Change is a common theme in the business/organizational world. And at times it seems ambiguous. Some businesses have been around for years and do well. They deliver a consistent product/service that customers want and buy. Other enterprises don’t change and fade away.

For most businesses, uncertainty and the resulting change are the way to do business. John Kotter, probably the best change proponent, states the first step is a sense of urgency. That is: we have to change or we won’t be around in the next year.

In my experience….the leader (and  leadership team) need to commit to a change of direction and then follow through.  In our family business we went from  full service to warehouse to full service format in a three-year period. The market changed and so did we.

For many people….change is difficult. The best way to change is to manage the uncertainty.

Determine a desired outcome….develop a plan….adapt as necessary


Early 2010 Thoughts









+ New twitter link….140 characters to compose a thought or idea.

+ SAS, the software icon in Cary, 34th consecutive year of revenue growth. Fortunes best place to work.

+ Southwest Airlines, 37th consecutive year of profits.

+ Competition: not to only outperform the competitor….but to be a better business.

+ Markets are global: China population 1.4 B, India 1.2 B, US 310 M, Brazil 200 M.

+ Vision often misunderstood: Doing exciting things….venturing into the unknown….charting a new course.

+ An organization’s history: 2003=400…..2010=40.  A dramatic decline.

Above and Beyond

CVS + Discount Tire

Great businesses always do things above and beyond their normal business activities.

Case in point: A friends recent encounter at two local businesses. After making a purchase at the CVS Drug Store….he returned to his car only to find an under-the-engine bracket had come undone. The CVS associate saw his predicament and came out of the store and reattached the bracket.

Though the bracket seemed OK and the car driveable, he suggested that my friend drive across the street and have the mechanics at Discount Tire put the car on the lift to make sure everything was sound and tight. After inspecting the car, the Discount Tire manager told my friend “he was good to go”. No charge.

This story speaks highly of these two businesses. Yet even more so of the CVS associate and Discount Tire manager who went above and beyond their expected responsibilities.


Brand Character

Don’t Lose It!

John Maxwell recently had a post on Tiger Woods. Maxwell is a well-know author on Leadership.

What stands out, especially to Maxwell, is that character is as important as other traits when it revolves around your brand. In this case….Tiger Woods as a personal brand. Somewhere along the way….personal character gets pushed aside….look at politics, sports, business. That is,  if you are a super star at what you do….that is the most important thing….character comes in second, third or even last.

So how does your brand character impact on your business?

I remember the encounter clearly. We had advertised several desirable products. I thought I had written the ad well. Yet a customer came in to buy the product and I did a crummy job in trying to explain my ad and completely satisfy the customer.

In a brief encounter….I tampered with our  brand character. Just as Tiger Woods disregard of character has devasted his personal brand.

The Lesson: Businesses/organizations/people may not minimize the importance of character.


Lemonade Stand Lesson

Seth Godin’s post on Jan. 11 illustrates a business principle that I believe businesses/organizations often neglect.

That is:

It  is not just product/price….it’s the intangibles that complete the sale and create a long-term valuable customer.

In Seth’s story….both stands sell lemonade….one does it differently in being customer centered rather than product centered.

My post a few days ago on our new shower system illustrates that principle clearly….the entire selling process involves more than the product.

I wonder if stuff like this gets enough attention at the Michigan School of Business!

Best Kept Secret?

 Effective marketing?











There is a retirement community in our area that advertises:

The Best Kept Secret in the Triangle!

as their unique selling proposition. They have done it for many years. So is it really a secret anymore?

Shouldn’t your marketing strategy be such that your product/service becomes well-known?

Instead of proclaiming that you are the best kept secret, market your:

  • Benefits
  • Advantages
  • Desirability

A marketing strategy should make a product/service known to the market.

These folks need an update of their startegy!

Groucho Marx

Find a new market place before the competition does – Seth Godin











There are some excellent thinkers in the business world. Seth Godin is one of them. That’s why his link is on this blog. Every business /organization leader should read his Groucho Marx  post of Jan.6, 2010.

Godin told  the story of how Groucho and The Marx brothers were able to change their entertainment act to a changing market……

Vaudeville to Movies to TV.

The same is true for our businesses….the market is changing….we are a global economy. Businesses that can adapt to a changing market will be those that prosper.

The market is littered with those that did not change-Polaroid….Gateway….GM/Chrysler….Circuit City

The Lesson:

Think like Groucho. Spend a great deal of time understanding the market and the customer.



Pictures like this make me cringe. Our family business was in Western Michigan….only a few miles from Lake Michigan and SNOW!

January 1975 was like the photo…. almost every week. Our sales for the month were 25% of our forecasted amount.

Every day it was plow the snow….clean the sidewalks….cope with the weather.  Buying home furnishings was not a priority in weather like this!

While the sales were down….the normal expenses continued. It was disheartening to spend the advertising dollars for the weekend business and then on Friday another 10″ of snow fell.

Yet….we persevered!

The lessons here:

  • Stay the course
  • Follow the strategy
  • Adapt when necessary
  • Wait for Spring