Back to Basics

Foolproof Cooking

The past few years I have ventured into cooking….mostly because of watching cooking shows while on the treadmill. One of the more prominent is those of Ina Garten.

Ms. Garten is interesting to watch and is the last of the “real cooks” (that is she cooks without the hype of tv cooking).

So from a business perspective what does this mean….from today’s N&O:

“She doesn’t tramp around the world eating bizarre things, she doesn’t race around in competitions. She just cooks-and makes you want to cook. Her recipes are sophisticated enough to feel stylish, but simple that anyone can make them.” (“Barefoot Contessa Foolproof”)

In otherwords….Ina Gartten does the Basics and does them right. Good businesses/organizations do the Basics….right.


Toyota of Apex

I had to vist our local Toyota dealership recently. The dealership is new and impressive….from the number of vehicles in the lot….to the showroom….and well-appointed waiting areas.

The associates were in company attire and at least in my encounter….professional. Toyota of Apex is part of the Hendrick automobile group….so it could be expected to be first class.

Not having been in a new car dealership in years….Toyota of Apex is a far cry from our days of new car purchases.

Toyota of


A Nice Experinece

I needed some glass replacement….the local Town & Country hardware didn’t carry the size. Burke Brothers Hardware is a classic hardware store….had the right size….though about a 20 minute drive into Raleigh.

What I did get for the extra time and distance was a seasoned hardware person….who knew exactly what I needed and did it. I was in and out in less than 15 minutes. Burke Brothers has seasoned hardware people who know the business….not inexperience employees who only point you to the appropriate aisle.

This is an extremely well stocked store with the usual and unusual items….staffed by 5-10 knowledgeable people….just like a good hardware business should be.



How often to we buy something and the checkout person was nonchalant in completing the sale?

A recent visit to our local hardware store (It is no longer ACE) was a good example of an ambivalent checkout person. It seems like the least experienced person (or poorly trained) is hired to fill this vital position….after all the checkout is the last person a customer encounters in the buying process.

If a customer is willing to spend their money with a business….they should at least have a pleasant experience at the checkout.

There are first and last impressions for any business/organization….make both of them count.

Different World

Ingersoll-Rand-Clark Equipment-Federal Mogul

Ingersoll-Rand….Clark Equipment….Federal Mogul were the three primary companies I interviewed in 1967 as an MBA at The University of Michigan. All three were job offers….with Ingersoll-Rand being our choice.

Clark  Equipment at that time was located in Battle Creek, MI….I would be making fork lift trucks in some form or another. The Federal-Mogul plant I was interviewing was in Van Wert, Ohio making automobile engine components.

By selecting Ingersoll-Rand (I-R)….we would be moving to Painted Post, NY where I-R manufactured very large gas pipeline compressors (like the one in the photo). A very cool place to begin a manufacturing career and start on an upward path in the corporate world.

Clark Equipment eventually left Battle Creek, bought by another company (Ingersoll-Rand). Federal Mogul is still in Van Wert. Ingersoll-Rand continues as a major global manufacturer. Unfortunately….due to a reorganization in the Painted Post plant….there was a delay in starting. So instead of beginning a manufacturing career….it was returning to Muskegon and entering a completely different world of small business .

Great Design

Impress Coffee Maker

Tom Peter’s speaks often on design. He would be impressed by this design by a Raleigh design firm. A new version of a coffee press. By some standards….a coffee press is the ideal method for brewing coffee.

Here is a traditional version….while a dedicated coffee drinker….I don’t use the French Press (though I have one). It’s a little awkward to use and often grounds are present in the coffee.

The Impress Coffee Maker is easier to use according to the designers….and it’s a cleaner design. The developement was funded through an innovative program in the area to secure grass-roots investments. The program was success and the project completely funded. With a planned retail price of about $40….the Impress Coffee Maker looks like a great winner….of course the market (and coffee brewing) will be the real test.

A very nice design. Could it be made in the U.S. …rather than outsourced? I would think that it could be produced domestically….for better manufacturing control and much quicker delivery.

Time to Change

Resarch Triangle Park (RTP)

RTP has been a cornerstone of the Raleigh-Durham area….along with Duke, NC State and UNC.

RTP founded more than 50 years ago was a catalyst for RDU growth….with IBM being one of the largest and early companies to locate operations in the park.

It’s now 2012, and the park directors have developed a new plan….more of an urban environment to carry RTP forward for the next 50 years.

The key to the RTP story is the realization that what currently exists has to change to accommodate the next generations of business and R&D.

While some businesses can stay the same….in a changing world….most businesses/organizations have to adapt to a new reality.


Cary U.S. Post Office

Cary, NC is consistently ranked as one of the best places to live….and that is the reason we live here. The roads are fairly well maintained….there is a strong sign ordinance which eliminates a lot of visual clutter….and most commercial properties are properly cared for.

Except for the main U.S. Post Office.

The Cary post office probably could be ranked as one of the shabbiest. The U.S. Postal Service loses great sums of money….so maintainance most likely is at the bottom of the list. Either the Cary post office does not have any funds for maintenance or the building is leased and the owner doesn’t see any value in building appearance or upkeep.

A business’s appearance reflects on the quality of its product/services….perhaps this is a partial reason the Postal Service loses money or at least doesn’t remain competitive in todays email….FedEx world.

We kept our facilities spotlessly clean and neat….after all who would want to spend their money at a shabby business.


Shabby appearance=Shabby business

Miss Jenny’s Pickles

Home Grown

60 Minutes did a story on Asheboro, NC and businesses in the Randolph County area. One of them-Ms Jenny’s Pickles.

Miss Jenny’s is a nice story: Former financial industry managers were no longer in that industry and decided to make pickles from a family recipe.

That is how many successful businesses get their start. Now it’s a large leap from financial products to pickles….yet by doing something that they are good at and making a quality product is a significant start.

Lowe’s Foods carry the Miss Jenny’s brand in our area. Admittedly it is a premium brand at $6.29 (24 oz.)….Mt Olive’s price is 50% less at $3.29 (24 oz).

The next steps….would seem to expand the brand….increase distribution….enhance product desirability. I did turn Miss Jenny’s jars upside down….there is a decided difference in added ingredients.

People Business

MBWAWe have been members of the local gym since 2004. Originally called Pulse….than Gold’s….now Fitness Connection.

Our gym fits our needs perfectly. It’s not a huge place….just the right size for its location. While doing the treadmill for an hour or so….one gets to observe how the gym functions. The trainers do an excellent job….the front desk also. However, from what I see….the manager has almost no interaction with people.

While Fitness Connection may think of the business as providing fitness equipment, etc….it is really in the people business. Making sure its guests (members) are satisfied is more important than siting in the office.

Good fitness managers manage by walking around (MBWA)….interacting with the members.