Start 2010 with a Beer and a Lesson

It is amazing the lessons that can be found in the simplest places. I have to admit now, that I am a big fan of Guinness Beer.  I have been for a while.  To me, there is nothing better than a black and tan (Guinness and Bass).  So, when I went on Amazon.com one day and saw the book title The Search for God and Guinness by Stephen Mansfield I downloaded it to my Kindle!  Well, I just finished it and was pretty amazed and it has some great life lessons.

First, I know that times are changing fast in our generation.  It seems like the world is moving so fast, and changes are happening within our life time at a speed not seen in any other generation.  Well, that’s what I thought.  Here is a passage from the book about the changes that Winston Churchill experienced in his life time:

Consider the life of Winston Churchill.  He was born in 1874.  Men still lived who had fought Napoleon. Ulysses S. Grant was in his second term as the American president and Karl Marx was just then in the British Library writing the Communist Manifesto.  Mark Twain had written none of the books for which he had become famous.  Electricity, radio, television, and telephones were still unknown and only the year before Yale, Princeton, Columbia and Rutgers universities had met to draw up the first rules for a new game.  It was called “football.”

When Churchill died ninety years later in 1965, men had orbited the earth, walked in space, and sent a probe to the surface of Venus.  An automobile had already driven over six hundred miles per hour and sex-change operations had been successfully performed. Nuclear power had already come of age.  Lyndon Johnson was the American president at that time and though he was considered an elderly man, he had been born when Churchill was already thirty-four.  The year Churchill died, the Queen of England gave the Order of the British Empire to the Beatles.  It was an honor Churchill had also received, yet for a far different contribution in a far different age.

Change is not unique to our generation. We like to think, and rightfully so, that we are having to deal with more change than anyone before us.  Really, change is a shared experience through the ages.  How we deal with, and what we make of change is up to us.

Mr. Mansfield highlighted a few key points about the story of the Guinness history.  Here is my take on those points:

Discern the ways of God for life and business.

A great quote from Harry Grattan Guinness is “Gentlemen, find out the will of God for your day and generation, and then, as quickly as possible, get into line.

That really says it all.  Find you place within the time that we live, make sure it lines up with the will of God and go for it!!

Think in terms of generations yet to come.

Did you ever notice that today in business and life, we are thinking short-term.  We don’t build a foundation for the future, we barely build a foundation.  We need to be anchored in long-term thinking – for the generations yet to come.  Do you know it took 23 generations to build the Canterbury Cathedral?  Can you imagine that?  Can you imagine building a business not with a 5 year plan but a 50 year vision.  We need to broaden our thinking and vision.

Whatever else you do, do at least one thing very well.

Ever notice that some companies want to be all things to all people?  When you follow this line of thinking, you do nothing well.  Advise that is good for all of us, be very good at one thing, then build on it.

Master the facts before you act.

Going back to the point that we think our generation owns change, we seem to act before we think.  We are so bombarded with data that we sometimes don’t think strategically.  We take an idea and run with it before we think about it.  Challenge ideas and data.  Once you have thought about an idea or project, gathered and interpreted the data and created a sound strategy, then act. Not only should you act, but act quickly and decisively – but only after you have mastered the facts.

Invest in those you would have invest in you.

Another great quote from Edward Cecil is “You cannot make money from people unless you are willing for people to make money from you.”  This is lost on our generation.  The best investment a company can make is in their human resources.  Ya, it cost money, that’s why they call it an investment. Productivity does not come from squeezing everything out of an employee for the least amount of pay and benefits.  Productivity comes from motivating an employee.  People are people – if they only go through the motions of working for you, you are not going to get the greatest benefit from the resource.  Educate your employees, care for them, pay them a fair wage and treat them like the precious resource they are.  If you don’t care about them, they won’t care about you or your business.

2010 is going to be a great year!  I will be the best year ever.  Look out for those lessons, they may come from the simplest places.  They could come the next time you have a beer!  Hope it’s a Guinness!

Random Thoughts

Just a few random thoughts from the day:

Apple

Looking forward to hearing more about the Apple Tablet (iSlate is the rumored name).  As the story goes, this will be a tablet computer that runs on a similar OS as the iPhone.  Anywhere from a 7″ to 10″ display.  This will be Apples answer to the Kindle and possible rival NetBooks.  Price range $1000.

I have a Kindle, which I really like. An Apple version with touch screen and color display that can act like a NetBook would be sweet.  $1000 price range is a little high.  Can’t wait to see it!

Online Holiday Sales hit $27 Billion

ComScore reported that online holiday sales (11/1/2009 thru 12/24/2009) were up 5% to 27 billion.  Tuesday, December 15 was the busiest day of the online season, with $913 million in sales.  Interesting stuff, below is the sales by week YoY for the last 6 years:

Weekly Online Holiday Retail Sales

HubSpot

Grader.comAttended a great webinar by HubSpot today on how business can use Facebook.  Here is a really cool tool that you can use to see your ranking on Facebook, Twitter and also your web site.  Give it a try!

eMarketer

In the category of “Come on now”, eMarketer today talked about how companies are worried about their brand reputation on social networking sites.  I get that.  Very important for companies to understand how customers are shaping their brand.  Now for the part that makes me go “Come on now”:

So, 344 companies answered the questions “How does your company minimize negative comments” about their brand on social media.  47% – Directly engaged with publisher/blogger to rectify issue or address negative experience.  That is GREAT!!!  Listen and engage your customer.

What is the world are the 14% of the respondence thinking that tried to get the negative content removed.  You have to be kidding me.  Are you stupid or what.  All that does is create a fire storm.  Worst – 30% do nothing – that’s right nothing.  Don’t you care what your customers think about your brand??

Oh my, my.

Simon & Schuster eBook Strategy is just Stupid

In a Wall Street Journal article today, Jeffry Trachtenberg reports that Simon & Schuster and the Hachett Book Group would purposely delay ebook version of many of their new upcoming releases. Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon & Schuster states that they need to do this to now before the “..installed base of ebook reading devices gets to a size where doing it would be impossible.”

So, the book publishes don’t like the fact that a ebook version cost $9.99.  Now, I am just using common sense here, but if you don’t have to produce a hard cover book (along with all the production cost associated with the distribution of that book), doesn’t it cost less??  Didn’t the music industry cry foul when iTunes and other such electronic versions of music distribution came on the scene?  (iTunes saved the music industry!!) David Young, chief executive of the Hachette Book Group states that “We’re doing this to preserve our industry,”  “I can’t sit back and watch years of building authors sold off at bargain-basement prices. It’s about the future of the business.”  Not sure, but I think it is about the high priced, high margin hard cover books, not the future of the business.

This is pure stupidity on many fronts.  First, the ebook devices that these publishers are talking about are Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook and other devices such as the iPhone and Blackberry.  These devices have become very popular and have a mass appeal that can only help book and newspaper publishers.  Second, the digital book market is growing.  Publishers should embrace it!  Mrs.Reidy and Mr. Young, you need to become a little more forward thinking and wake up to the fact that you are in the digital age.

Think “long tail”, not “short profits”.  The eBook market allows for a long tail and long shelve life for books.  Instead of think “old school” publishing cycle of “Hard Cover” than “Paper Back” then discount rack, think LONG TAIL.  Think Digital.   Now instead of a limited shelf life for a new book, think long.  People can download the book for months and years to come, versus the limited time frame of a hard cover release.  $9.99 is much better for 5 years than 4 months of $16.99 and 1 year of $1.89 in the bargain rack.

Now, the other really stupid thing that these short sided CEO’s are not thinking about is that if their books are not available for download on release, those ebook customers may just ignore the new release.  What happens then?  You have lost a sale, you have provided a poor customer experience and the authors you represent leave your publishing company and go to a more forward thinking publisher or become self publishers and publish themselves without your fees.  Now that would really suck for you…….

Lastly, if I was a book publisher in this day and age, I don’t think I would fight with the giants.  Amazon and Barnes and Nobel represent a massive amount of the retail book market.  Not sure if these CEO’s have been out in the real world in a while, but most brick and mortar book stores have CLOSED!!!!  Now, I am not suggesting that this would happen, but what happens if Amazon and Barnes and Nobel (both of which have a large stake in the eBook market) decide to not offer Simon & Schuster and the Hachett Book Group new high priced hard cover books, for say, 3 or 4 months??  Might have a little bit of a problem there…..

Point to all this is we live in a digital age.  Customers have changed the method in which they want to receive and read books.  Publishers can fight it or be more customer centric.  Stop being stupid and lead your companies into the future.  Your customers are already ahead of you, come join them or they may not be your customers any more.

Disclaimer:  I have a Kindle and love it.  I would much rather read a book on my Kindle carry around a 500 page hard cover book.  I also read books on my iPhone.

Chris Reighley is an eCommerce marketing professional, online consumer behavior expert and social marketing evangelist. He is currently working on a PhD in eCommerce for Northcentral University in Prescott Valley, Arizona.  Chris owned and operated many ecommerce retail stores in the music, golf and health & beauty categories.  Currently Chris is the Director of eCommerce at FillTek in Cincinnati, Ohio where he works with online retailers such as Hugo Boss, Tretorn, Tommy Hilfiger and Bluefly.