Practicing What You Preach

Apologies for the long gap between posts. I’m afraid it’s been a very busy few weeks.

One of the basic premises of Saint Benedict’s Rule for living the monastic life is consistency. It’s also a good rule for running our businesses. Obviously what we believe is important, but it’s even more important to be consistent in our beliefs.

There’s a running battle (Maybe battle’s too strong a word, disagreement may be more appropriate.) between the lovely and talented Mrs. B and your favorite blogger over the topic of Wal Mart. As a small business czar, I find her shopping for groceries at Wally World to be problematic. We’ve compromised on her alternating between the local grocer one week and Wal Mart the next.

It’s not a perfect solution, but for now it’s the best the Irishman and the German can do. It’s an uneasy truce. Sometimes spouses can influence everyone except each other. (She’s a weight-loss counselor. I’ve obviously remained immune to her arguments. Another standoff.)

I thought about this recently while I was trying to catch up on my podcast listening and watching. Andrew Lock does an excellent weekly video blog called “Help, My Business Sucks!” Recently he praised Hertz Rent a Car for their marketing strategy involving built-in GPS units in their vehicles. Hertz has long been at or near the top of the rental car industry stressing quality over price.

Then, just two episodes later Andrew tells us that he rented a car from Thrifty and that he had a number of problems with both the car and the company’s service. Andrew, buddy, you’re not being consistent.

This blogging stuff isn’t as easy as it looks. Oh, yes, it’s easy to sit at the keyboard or the microphone and offer good advice to others. But when the rubber meets the road, sometimes we have to make hard choices. “Buy American” I type on my Thailand-made keyboard. I pontificate “Buy local” while I munch on my White Castle burger. Andrew tells us to emulate Hertz but rents from Thrifty.

Sometimes we have no choice. As far as I know, there are no American-made keyboards and White Castle doesn’t play fair. Their burgers are addictive. If there were a local restaurant with an equally-delicious sandwich, I’d eat there in a heartbeat. (At least until their burgers clog my arteries to the point where I have no heartbeat.)

Here’s the thing. Mike Buckley, and Andrew Lock, and you must be as consistent as possible. I’ll keep trying to get my better half to buy her groceries from the local chain. I pointed out Andrew’s inconsistency in a blog comment. And you, my independent business owner friend, must patronize local business as often as you can.

If you’re a retailer, please don’t let your customers see you coming out of the warehouse club with a cart full to overflowing. Sometimes we have no choice, but when we do, the long-term success of the business is more important that saving a few cents on a box of soap powder.

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He Was Mad as Hell 34 Years Ago

Here’s an interesting video.  Keep in mind that the words are from the movie “Network” which was released in 1976.  Sadly, the only thing that’s changed is that the threat from the Russians has been replaced by the threat from the Middle East.

When You Lose a Key Employee-Gerry Ryan Has Passed Away

This is one of those posts which may not seem relevant at first, but bear with me.

Gerry Ryan died on Friday morning.  If you live outside of Ireland, you may not know who he was.  He was an icon of Irish broadcasting.  He worked for RTE, the national radio and television outlet for more than 20 years.  I’ve tried to come up with an American broadcaster for comparison, but I really can’t think of one.  Let’s just say that most loved him, some despised him, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in Ireland who wasn’t aware of him.

I got hooked on the Ryan show when I was in Ireland in 2008.  Unfortunately his morning program (programme) was on in the middle of the night my time, so I wasn’t able to enjoy 2fm’s audio stream, but I was able to listen to podcast highlights and rarely missed an episode.

Ryan reminded me a lot of the late Jack Carney, an American radio personality who broadcast on KMOX here in Saint Louis.  His style of talk, celebrity interviews, listener calls, and an occasional song was similar to Ryan’s.  Like Ryan, he died of a heart attack at a young age.  (Carney was 52.  Ryan was 53.)

At the peak of Carney’s popularity, KMOX was number one in a thirty-five station market.  Often more people were listening to Carney’s show than the other thirty-four stations combined!

Now comes the relevant part for your business.  After Carney’s death, even though KMOX remains a powerful force in the market, the station never returned to it’s former glory.  A number of personalities have filled his nine-to-noon time slot, but it’s never been quite the same.  I suspect that 2fm will find the same to be true.  Carney and Ryan are irreplaceable.  The Ryan Show generated 5.4 million euro (more than $7 million)  in ad revenue per year.

What about your business?  Do you have someone who can’t be replaced?  If so, chances are it’s you.  But not necessarily.  Maybe you have a top salesman or a top chef, or a top designer who’s contributions are essential and who would be difficult if not impossible to replace.  Remember that both Ryan and Carney were in their early fifties.  Ryan signed off on Thursday promising listeners he would be back tomorrow.  He wasn’t.

Do you have a succession plan?  Do you have a “plan B” just in case you, or anyone whose presence is essential to the running of the business would suddenly be out of the picture for an extended time, maybe forever?  This is something that can easily be ignored, or at least put off, especially if it involves facing our own mortality.    But, I guarantee you that it’s much easier to do before-the-fact, especially if the irreplaceable key employee is you.  This isn’t a task you want to leave to grieving family members.

While Ireland mourns the death of their favorite broadcaster, the “men upstairs” at RTE are scrambling to fill an important time slot, occupied until just a few days ago.  Today’s a holiday in Ireland and Ryan was already scheduled to be off  which buys management a little bit of time.  But come tomorrow morning at 9:00, someone is going to be sitting in Ryan’s chair, and it’s a big chair to fill.