Fortu Battery Plant


Six years, a major announcement was made that a company called Fortu was building a power cell plant in Muskegon. Of course this was great news or was it?

Last week it was announced that the Fortu plant was never going to be built. http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2015/02/fortu_powercell_factory_will_n.html

I was suspicious that this facility was ever going to be built. In 2009….battery-powered automobiles were getting much attention and Muskegon was anxious for any new industry.

A little research might have found that the proposed battery was not yet fully developed.


“Technology breakthroughs in the advanced battery field are often announced with great fanfare. But often, the companies making these claims disappear without a trace.”

Now that Alevos has bought out Fortu….it remains to be seen how the battery fanfare plays out in North Carolina.


Too Expensive



From Seth Godin:

Start with a  community that in fact does value what you do. And then do an ever better job of explaining and storytelling, increasing the perceived value instead of lowering the price. (Even better, actually increase the value delivered). When you don’t need everyone to buy what you sell, “it’s too expensive” from some is actually a useful reminder that you’ve priced this appropriately for the rest of your audience.”

The main idea is that for some people your product/service may be too expensive….yet if you start with a community (customers) that does value your product AND you do an excellent job of explaining and storytelling than the perceived value is even better for the customers..

Just about anyone can be a low-price producer….the test for any business is to offer better “value delivered”.





I was at the Lowe’s Home Center this morning. As often as I visit Lowe’s….almost all the time I see the store manager on the floor interacting with the associates and customers.  MBWA (Managing By Walking/Wandering Around) is a fundamental organizational principle. It’s the only way to get the pulse of the business and to see the how the home center is merchandised.

On the other hand at our fitness center, the manager seldom interacts with the customers/members….most of the time he sits in the office. I suspect the management training is far different at Lowe’s than Fitness Connection. Yet….the bottom line for both businesses is customer satisfaction….the only way to understand that is MBWA.


Four Lessons


Shinola is a company that in a small way has revitalized manufacturing in Detroit

From The Chicago Tribune:


One interesting aspect of The Tribune story is the Fossil lifestyles brand…..with sales of $3.2B.

The four lessons from Shinola:

  • “I Wish I Could Say That We Had a Plan.” – It helps a lot to have a vision and a compelling story.
  • “If We Take Care of Our People, They’ll Take Care of Our Customers and Our Business.” – Success breeds success, and believing that your people are your most important asset (and that they can always be better) is the only way to keep raising the bar.
  • “We Start With the Best Product We Can Find (or Imagine) and Then Make the Numbers Work.” – They guaranteed their products for life.
  • “If Your High Prices are Propped Up by Huge Marketing Spends, You’re Ripe for Disruption.” – The Shinola team believed that you can make a great product and a great living (and even give back to your community) without being greedy and taking advantage of the consumer. 

The take-a-way is two-fold other than the excellent four lessons:

  • The willingness to invest in Detroit.
  • The need to continually learn from Shinola and others.





Eventually Success


Much is written about failure….often this: “Failure is not an option”.

Tom Peters continually states that failure is part of a successful organization….the willingness to try new ideas….new ways of doing things….some work, some don’t. Excellent businesses have a culture of trying and continuing trying.

The winter months remind me of “failure” in our business. We would make a sizeable investment in each weeks advertising promotion….newspaper and radio. Friday and Saturday were generally the highest sales days and were vital for the business. Yet we would often have poor weather….that resulted in people not getting out to do their discretionary purchasing.

The end result: failure of that weeks promotion. Of course, we would start over again for the following week….create the promotion theme….layout the ad and get ready for the weekend. We could not dwell on the poor results (failure) of a bad week….even if weather related. If we did….we should not have been in that business. In the long term….there was eventually success.

“Fail. Fail again. Fail better.” (Tom Peters)


Future Strategy


I recently read a post about future trends of a particular industry. In 1982, John Naisbitt published Megatrends-Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives….a new and popular resource in the early 80s.

While not all predictions materialize….it is a significant part of the business/organization strategy process to be aware of what will be important in the future.

I need to revisit Megatrends to see if the ten directions were accurate. Anyone can create predictions….the validity lies in the credibility of that source.


From New Zealand


Business/organizations need to continually learn. Businesses get isolated with day-to-day operations. The great benefit of the internet is to discover businesses from 1/2 way around the world….RightWay accounting is one of them.

A nice website explains in detail the RightWay philosophy. With ten locations throughout New Zealand….the firm can have a strong influence on NZ small businesses.



Niche Quadrant 


“What we’re seeing from small independent brewers is an ability to differentiate; they have different products and style, that has appeal. Even though the barrelage is significantly lower, the economic impact is greater to each state because these breweries are able to charge a premium for what they are making.”


This is somewhat of a follow-on to the last post (Whole Foods 02.0615)…..these small independent brewers differentiate themselves by being in the niche quadrant of the market. They are not competing on price.

The focus of TrueNorth has been that business/organizational success is dependent on being better and different. The Crain’s Detroit article is an excellent example of this strategy.


Whole Foods


Commodity or ?

Whole Foods

Chris Gibbons wrote (from a Business Week story):

“The rule for winning in the niche quadrant (which they {Whole Foods} occupied for so long):  Innovate.  Continually open up the  gap between you and the competitors.  John Mackey is proposing a program called Total Health Immersion, a weekend getaway for  customers.  “Americans are sick of being  sick,” Mackey says.  “they don’t know what to do, and  there’s so much misinformation, which is why we started Whole Foods in the first place.”  Is that innovation enough?”

“So Whole Foods struggles with core strategy:  should we drive down prices to win in the commodity quadrant or should we innovate again to win in the niche quadrant?  They appear to be lost and moving in both  directions which would be a recipe for disaster.”

The fundamental issue is that if Whole Foods wants to be a premium brand it must act like it is a premium brand. If it wants to follow a commodity model than just about every food business will be a competitor.

In our business, we faced a similar situation with a low-price competitor less than a mile from us….at the low-end of the price range. We could not compete….we had better products….though not priced low enough. Of course the answer….don’t try to compete with a commodity business.

For us….the strategy was: be different and unique. Be the only one who had our line of products….excellent selling and….strong customer service. Those were are values that they didn’t have at the other place.

In my opinion….Whole Foods won’t win in the commodity quadrant.

True Value

Don’t Cheat

True Value

“People are very smart.” “You can’t cheat people and try to get away with not providing them true value.”

There are some businesses that really don’t care if the customer returns or if the customer doesn’t get “true value”….unfortunately some are very large and get by on being large. If a customer doesn’t like their product/service….then someone else will come thru the door or place an order.

It would be difficult to be part of a business that doesn’t give true value. It would seem the marketplace would eventually eliminate those businesses….yet that is not the case….some do seem to survive.

Our name was on the business….we had to protect the name….our brand. We valued it so much that we had to provide true value….and even more.