How can companies still think what they do is top secret. Note I’m not talking about intelligence, research or military organizations here. I mean general competitive businesses in a competitive marketplace.
How many of the projects we’ve been sworn to keep secret really needed or benefited from that? How many top secret projects failed to launch? Again I’m not talking about early gestation with limited resources, there’s a time and place for keeping something under wraps until it’s time – however even then most people keep it too secret for too long.
Enthusiasm is the hardest attribute to sustain in any endeavor.
I’ve found many companies with a Culture of Secrecy are really staffed by people avoiding scrutiny or responsibility. If they don’t say what they are going to achieve, they can’t be held accountable when they miss.
Everybody misses from time to time. Me included. Looking at what went wrong often more valuable than succeeding by a fluke.
Fear is the other great cause of the secrecy cult. Every manager worthy of the title has had an employee leave to work for a competitor. Weak managers of weak businesses respond by limiting the flow of ideas and information to the team that drives the business. They hope a defection cannot harm them again, without reviewing if that harm was more than a bruised ego. This is overprotective thinking. When you fell over as a baby while learning to walk, you tried again until you mastered it. If a business is only as good as its secrets it has no better competitive advantage in the marketplace. Are there low barriers to entry for competitors?
Find your competitive advantange. That may be worth keeping close to the chest, but I doubt it. Your success flows from knowing what you do better than anyone else – what others cannot take from you.
Think of great global brands and great businesses like Coca-Cola, American Express, IBM, Toyota, McDonald’s. While some part of their operations are necessarily private they don’t have a culture of secrecy. Where do you want your company to be in 20 years?
For another perspective check out what Robin wrote a while ago at Snarkmarket on iPhone, Secrecy and Excellence
I was talking to someone with long connections in the NBL – Australia’s National Basketball League.
The Singapore Slingers are based in Singapore, but I’ve heard if they put a Singaporean on the floor he must take one of the two import slots that NBL teams are allowed. Normally those spots are for players who have to produce every game in the role they are hired for.
This may be a limitation of the FIBA license granted to the NBL and international politics of basketball. I’m investigating,Â but if this is true it seems like a sports marketing mistake.
Do not to put obstacles between your customers and your product. In this case the Slingers need decent home crowds, and that means putting local talent on the floor – developing it if you must.
More to come as I gather information.
Michael Rakusin, Director of Tower Books replied to Charlie Rimmer‘s letter. I’ve emailed a request to reproduce Michael’s email here, but in the meantime you can read it at Susan Wyndhamâ€™s Undercover blog. That way the conversation can allow trackbacks around the blogosphere.
I look forward to watching the fall-out in the industry over this. When a major market player decides to flex their muscle, they should make sure they are a big enough player. I suspect that at a claimed 18% of the Australian book retail market Angus & Robertson will find it is not enough to succeed.
Bunnings on the other hand does have enough market share. But more on that later.
Update Michael Rakusin has granted permission to reproduce his letter below Continue reading A&R Scandal: Tower Books’ Michael Rakusin Replies
I’m at a trade show in Cologne Germany. I’m questioning my trade show strategy. I race around all the halls and grab flyers or brochures only from stands that pique my interest. I then do some small talk, but really it’s just an introduction and “I’ll email once I get home and review your website”.
Interestingly I know people who want to sit down and place an order at trade shows. Unless they’re really experienced I can’t see how they manage their budgets or keep things straight that way. I’ve travelled with someone like that once. He basically ordered what he liked and cancelled orders after the show if he’d double ordered something (or found it on another stand at a better price). In a sense proforma invoices allowed and even encouraged him. He’d review it before the order was confirmed.
I wish I could do something like that. It seems more management by exception, or even following Getting Things Done.
From a Theory of Constraints perspective, I am the constraint. When I get home I have to pull out the brochures, write emails, review websites consider things again. Whereas my friend makes a decision and then it’s up to the supplier to do the work.
Damn I hate it when I have an epiphany like this on the road. Now I’ve actually got to change me approach.
You may have noticed some buttons appearing in the sidebars. Yes I’ve finally joined the web candy crowd.
They’re for voting for WealthEsteem on various blog toplists. I’m experimenting with directory listings and raising the profile of the blogs I write for or manage. Unless you’re reading this on a RSS aggregator or reader, in which case you haven’t noticed anything. That’s ok I don’t mind how you access Wealth Esteem. But for those of you who want to use either the Google Reader or your Google homepage, here is a button just for you.
I’ll add more links later. I just found Chicklet Creator.
Update Oops! the code didn’t validate as XHTML 1.0 Transitional so I’ve pulled it. I’ll use the code as the basis of a validating list. I think I shouldn’t have selected every available reader.
Update: 11 May 2006 It is very important for an online business website to validate as compliant with the standard. As each website specifies what W3 standard it complies with, failing to meet that standard places unnecessary obstacles between my viewers and my website.
Red Bull bought the (USA) Major League Soccer‘s New York MetroStars and renamed them New York Red Bulls. Steve Rubel at Micro Persuasion calls the renaming risky in When the Team is the Brand.
I think it’s a gutsy move from a company revolutionizing the beverage business. Red Bull didn’t get where they are now by being timid. Let’s review the risks.
The team could lose… regularly. New Yorkers hate losers. The brand becomes associated with a pack of losers. But this is a World Cup year, soccer’s profile is huge. The Red Bulls could finish with the wooden spoon and the market impact would still be positive. Soccer is the most played team sport in America due to the number of kids playing it. The move shows long term commitment to the sport in one of the biggest media markets in the world. FIFA wants to grow the code’s popularity in the States and is going to spend money there.
The players could get involved in scandal. This isn’t the NBA, NRL or any of the European or South American leagues. The MLS is still not the big show in US sports. As such the stars are not treated as gods with the egos and behaviour to go with it. No individual players will consitently risk their future careers in Europe behaving like prima donnas on the road. Owning the team actually reduces the risk associated of individual player endorsements.
Pre- and post-season camps and road trips are a risk, especially with the sexual assault scandals rocking professional sports on all continents. Team owners in every sport are addressing these risks, team-wide scandals are not good for anybody’s business or career.
By owning the team rather than sponsoring it, Red Bull can’t use morals clauses to weasel out of sponsorship deals. No doubt all the players have morals clauses to limit the team risk. So if the deal goes bad Red Bull has to step in an fix it. The up side is the deal is all up side for Red Bull: they get a sporting brand to go with their existing extreme games sponsorships. As they build the brand they build their equity value for about the cost of a sponsorship deal.
There is the possibility that soccer in the States will remain a marginal sport. So the risk is MLS fails financially as a league. I don’t think Red Bull or FIFA are expecting it to knock the NBA, NFL or MLB of their pedestals anytime soon. It is a niche play to capitalise on the penetration of the sport. Plus as a European company, Austrian Red Bull would love to see soccer conquer the US market. Just like they imagine the day when they are the world’s #1 non-alcoholic beverage.
Update I also forgot to mention the subliminal association of “New York Red Bulls” with “Chicago Bulls” who play in red and are one of the most recognised NBA franchises outside North America. English Premier League also has the Red Devils (a.k.a Manchester United) now owned by an American. Branding buzz all round.