Last week I got involved in a cyber-debate about the overuse of power words, in this case about their use in CVs, but the principle applies more widely. I have two main issues with this abuse of language; firstly that much of it is transparently nonsense (and therefore untrue) and secondly that it wastes my time. Read more…
Last Thursday I blogged about a marketing company who would not stop cold calling me.
I am no stranger to cold calling; it was something that I, along with almost everyone else in sales in those days, did a lot of back in the 1970s. I did some more as recently as 2007 when trying to revive the fortunes of the business unit that I was attached to for nine months or so. Cold calling is a fact of life and it does, sometimes, work. Read more…
Over the weekend I was informed by a major UK retailer that toothpaste is not a dental product. You may find that as bizarre as I did, but it is true, as far as they are concerned within the limits of the relevant promotion.
Whatever their logic in drawing that line for their promotion may be my view is that it is another symptom of a malaise that we really should have stamped out by now; that of the Small Print. We had started to make real progress a few years ago with having clarity about things, even in those last bastions of the Small Print, the insurance and travel businesses, but it has begun to make a comeback.
Probably one of the drivers has been the budget airlines where, in some ways rightly, they have segmented their product to offer the customer a wider choice. We haven’t quite reached the “Inside or outside seating sir?” level, but, like many, I began to use budget airlines for business travel and was more than happy to just take a briefcase and be able to waft up to Glasgow and back for about a fifth of what it would cost me for a return fare on the train to London. The trains have followed suit with advance bookings and such since and it all helps to keep costs down if you can make the timings work and accept the risk of not making it to the airport or station in time for your booked return. Personally I don’t find that the web sites that you book through are particularly misleading or hard to use; fortunately I still have enough functioning brain cells to understand that being late is too late whether it is one minute or thirty. Either way I’m late and it will cost me regardless of why I’m late.
I’ve read recently that the Government want to introduce legislation to stop such companies not telling you that there is another 3.5% or similar to pay by credit card until you get to the late stages of the transaction. That’s fair enough I suppose, but in general I’m not hugely in favour of legislation at this sort of level. In fact I’m not in favour of Government interfering in business at all if we can help it, but the problem with some of this is that the people marketing these products view their customers as gullible enough to be drawn in far enough towards the purchasing decision before they clobber them with the real deal. However, this is the dodgy second hand car salesman technique that people of my vintage will be familiar with and sooner or later there will be a backlash.
So much for the B2C world, but we’re not like that in B2B are we? Unfortunately we often are, most often because we haven’t taken the basic steps of being sure about what we are buying and understanding the deal. Like me at the weekend we have rushed into the transaction thinking that we were on to a good deal but not having made sure that it was as good as we thought.
For me the choice was easy enough; pay up or walk away, but what if the deal had been for equipment costing a six figure sum or a three year service contract? That is not the sort of deal that you want to make a mistake on. Take your time to understand what you want and why and always make sure that, Small Print and all, the deal you make will deliver what you need.
Over the last week there has been much discussion in and around the media on leadership, primarily concerned with the roles of Messer’s Murdoch pere et fils. Personally I find the sight of politicians haranguing successful business people on the subject of accountability completely risible, but hypocrisy is the hallmark of modern politics and, sadly, we quietly accept it.
One day we might see genuine leadership from those we elect to office, but I doubt that it will happen whilst they all subject themselves to their media advisors; you can lead a committee, but you can’t truly lead by committee.
Where the Murdoch chaps fit into this week’s thoughts is the question of their position relative to what they knew. The whole sorry mess has seen much hysteria, but there is a basic issue at the heart of it as far as leadership goes, and that is that the leader should be setting the tone and that will be promulgated throughout the organisation.
How well that is done is another facet of leadership, but you cannot always guarantee that everyone will do the right thing; there are all sorts of possible failures from people not doing what they should whether that be through innocent or malicious reasons. I well remember a negotiation training course where a good syndicate group would have worked out that, at a critical stage in the deal, they would have to brief their notional team on keeping their powder dry. The boat must not be rocked at any cost, and so the syndicate would go through the role playing of talking the senior management team through what was needed of them. We would then roll the timeline forward and, of course, one of the senior team would have stepped out of line and torpedoed the negotiation. Sure it was cruel, but the syndicate members needed to be able to react to such situations because they do happen.
Now I make no judgement here on whether or not the M team knew what was going on over at NOTW or not, but it is patently obvious that you cannot delegate and be absolutely certain that your standards, policies or instructions will be upheld. You accept the risk and build in appropriate measures to mitigate against such risk, one of which is that a transgressor will lose their job.
To be conducting the questioning of the Murdoch’s along those lines is to mislead the public at large and is therefore another leadership failure , but let’s not get me back onto politicians, let’s just return to the point of the leader needing to set the tone.
Elsewhere in my newspapers this week I note that a certain Mr Rooney heads the table of footballers whose name is most popular amongst fans buying team shirts. It seems that more people want to have his name on their backs that anyone else which, on the basis that he has followers, makes him a leader of sorts.
I don’t follow professional football much these days; the game has lost its charm for me, but I respect Mr Rooney’s ability and application in his job. What does nothing to earn my respect is his behaviour, and this is what he shares with the NOTW.
The NOTW was successful because people wanted to read what it told them. It too was a leader and generated large amounts of advertising revenue because of its followers. But, like Mr Rooney, there were behavioural aspects that should have been curtailed, and in this the Murdoch’s failed.
Leaders can be good or bad. We need the former.
They call my right hand men Himmler & Hess and want me fired Part 2- more tales of life on the facilities front line
Last week left my team and I somewhat on the back foot. The clients were ganging up demanding my head to head off the changes I wanted to make and, in at least one case, to waste a 6 figure sum. My team’s morale was on the floor and, quite frankly, I just wanted to get back down the M4 before the fog set in as the winter darkness fell, but this was not the time to be walking (OK driving) away. Read more…
They call my right hand men Himmler & Hess and want me fired Part 1- more tales of life on the facilities front line
The other Facilities Front Line posts here have been on the dramatic side; gunmen, dodgy parcels and so on. These are rare occurrences although they do make for good copy; most days at the office have some drama, but overflowing toilets, disputes over parking places and rows over catering or meeting room bookings are not the sort of tales to grip the reader. Today’s tale is somewhere in the middle. Read more…
I’ve written here before about the alleged demise of the office, but the topic has raised its head again this past week so I’m off again.
We earthlings enjoy a fantastic range of communications devices these days, and we’re a couple of generations away from my early days at work where I would carry change to phone in to the office as and when necessary. Now the science fiction of my youth is a reality and I have a few of these devices at my disposal and am a happy, and fairly prolific, user of them.
The ability to keep in touch and to interact with others remotely has changed the way that we work, but that isn’t new; it’s just the natural process of evolution. The pace may vary, but change is constant.
The office as I have known it is a relatively new thing in terms of human history, and it has changed a lot in my time. At the end of the day it is a tool and we will adapt it as we need to. One of the buildings that I once managed is now an easyOffice and part of Stelios’ new venture. It still exists, which is more that can be said for some of the other flagships of my old 1990s empire; one has been demolished and an apartment complex now stands on the site, another has just been demolished and a third has been gutted and the shell absorbed into an industrial building. My team and I used to look after over 3000 people in those three offices and they were all key parts of the organisations that we worked on behalf of.
But we changed them radically over the time that we ran them and had them in a constant state of flux as the tenant businesses needs changed. There may have been an illusion of permanence, but it was only an illusion. The illusion is in the minds of the people though; the building is just a convenient place. Those of us who have managed big workplaces will know how lonely and dead they are when empty.
When people come together they can fill a space with their life and energy, and those provide a synergy that no amount of remote working or cloud collaboration can replace. The challenge for us within the industry is to provide those spaces, but in what form?
I remember the first Regus office locally and being very interested because they were doing on the open market what I was trying to do for an internal market. There was a time when it looked as though they wouldn’t make it, but the financial model has worked and others have followed, as with easyOffice in our old floors at Palmerston House, and all power to them for that.
Coffee bars, hotel lobbies, supermarket cafeterias and motorway services are all playing their part as alternative places to meet, but the thing that intrigues me is that there is still so much focus on city centres. With all of the moves away from pinning us down to the daily grind of going in to the office, most cities are working towards transport and infrastructure plans that are based on sizeable growth over the next 10-30 years. That implies that we will still have these great hives of activity for a long time to come.
Will we push the market, or will the market pull us? I don’t know that I have the answers right now, but it sure is a fascinating time to be in the industry isn’t it?