business

Delayed Gratification & Business-Building

In 1972, a professor at Stanford named Walter Mischel conducted a famous study which would become known as the “Stanford marshmallow experiment”.  Children were left in a room for 15 minutes with a single marshmallow, and offered the choice of either one immediate reward, or two rewards (as long as they didn’t eat the marshmallow by the time the researcher returned). If they were able to resist eating the single marshmallow, they were rewarded with another snack of their choice. The beauty of this study was not quite so much the insight about kids and marshmallows, but that it was a quite extensive study that actually followed up on the child’s progression through life for years. It turned out that… 

Relationships or Specifications?

It’s a fact which doesn’t sit well with some: the work itself doesn’t matter quite as much as who is doing it. Especially when we’re talking about service businesses. People buy based upon your likability — not whether you’re the absolute best, or whether you’re the cheapest. At first glance, this seems unfair. After having this discussion with a few folks, I’ve realized that many more people disagree with this statement than I first suspected. Because, if all things were equal, shouldn’t someone hire for value — getting the best work for the money? Yes, if all else is equal. But things are not all equal. And there is a hidden, intangible value to relationships that often trumps specifications. Let’s… 

Big ideas

I have watched agile methodology kill companies. Agile methodology originated in the software world and bled into every other world. Distilled down, it’s the concept that instead of dedicating a lot of time and energy into one big project, you should break it up into little bite-sized sprints, build a little bit at a time, and test small things before you commit to a big thing. It’s good in theory, and it works for some sorts of projects, but when you apply it to business it is pretty much a recipe for mediocrity. Big success requires big ideas. Big ideas require big work. Let me illustrate. I once worked with a company that wanted to be innovative, but was actually… 

Why the SMMA model is fundamentally broken

This year, I have gotten more messages about one specific subject than anything else by far. On Reddit (where I engage regularly in PPC & agency related topics) I’ve gotten 41 messages this month alone…and of those, 37 of them were asking about SMMA. To be honest, even though we published Building A Successful Micro-Agency earlier this year, I hadn’t heard this specific term. So I did some in-depth research. SMMA (social media marketing agency, also called “agency in a box”) is a term invented by a few gurus. The term isn’t used in normal marketing circles. It was recently invented to sell courses, which purportedly teach you how to make millions without having any specific skills or domain expertise.… 

Goalposts & Relativism

Last week, Q2’s economic numbers confirmed that we are not in a recession. Sure, it’s a recession by how the dictionary defines it (two consecutive quarters of negative GDP) and how the Harvard Business School defines it (two quarters of negative GDP growth) and by all other visible means (waves of layoffs, high inflation, crashing home sales) but no, it’s not a recession. We were assured of this by a torrent of ivory-towered journalists letting loose a preemptive wave of opinion articles declaring that there is nothing to see here. We were additionally assured that all is fine by a Wikipedia editor who changed the article on recession to say “the definition of a recession varies between different countries and… 

ESG & carbon credits: the indulgences of a zero-sum world

At some point in the past couple decades, the corporate world drew inspiration from the Middle Ages, and decided it was time to bring back indulgences.  Indulgences, if you’ve forgotten your Roman Catholic theology, are a way to reduce the amount of temporal punishment you undergo for your sins. In other words, you could pay money and spend less time in limbo. At first this penance was paid in forms of prayer or charity or good works, but if you’ve forgotten your Roman Catholic history, this began to mean financial donations. By the time of the Reformation, you could basically just pay off your vices through consistent donations to the overflowing and corpulent Papal treasury.  Simply put: pay enough, and you’re… 

Scurvy (and, the power of doing over understanding)

If you’ve ever watched an old pirate movie, and I hope you have, you’ll remember scenes in which pirates, stuck in the doldrums, are afflicted by scurvy. They lay around on the deck, first weak and helpless, then depressed and listless, then their hair and teeth start falling out, and then unless they catch sight of land (and therefore, fresh fruit and vegetables) they eventually die. Scurvy, of course, is a disease caused by lack of vitamin C. Humans are one of very few creatures (along with monkeys, bats, capybaras, and guinea pigs) who cannot create their own vitamin C within our bodies. It must be consumed.  Sailors of old ate a diet of salted meat and hardtack (fruit and vegetables… 

Silver

If you’re like me, when you’re researching things online, you’ll often realize that you’ve just ingested extremely biased information. Unfortunately, there is no instant antidote for incorrect information, usually since you don’t know if it’s poison or not. I’ve read articles about life insurance, about how I can ensure my family’s safety in the event of my death & dismemberment for only $18 a month, only to reach the end and realize it was written by one of those Northwestern Mutual fellows who send me LinkedIn messages about whole term life nonsense. That’s like drinking a bottle of something and then seeing the skull-and-bones on the warning label. How much of what I just read was true, and how much was false?… 

The precedence of comfort

In the absence of critical analysis, comfort takes precedence over anything else. Without a long-term approach, without delaying gratification in the now for better results in the future, humanity always defaults towards comfort. Comfort can mean different things, but the tangible basics are the same. At some level, it involves basic human needs, but it doesn’t stop there. It starts with the necessities of survival like food and shelter, and it spans a massive spectrum of needs and wants until it ends with things like feeling important or being special. There isn’t anything intrinsically wrong with comfort. I’d argue that a huge part of a productive, practical life is forging towards new levels of comfort for you and your family.… 

Good attempts

If a fellow in a ‘97 Civic challenges a dude in a ‘20 Porsche to a race, we’re not going to blame him for the loss. Getting to sixty miles an hour in a 1997 Honda Civic takes about 9.6 seconds. The 2020 Porsche GT3 RS takes around 2.9 seconds.

In this case, we don’t critique the loss. We critique the attempt. A terrible Civic driver who dumps the clutch and gives up with a pout before even finishing the run? Not worth our accolades.