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February 2009
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March 2009

The moral of the story: morals are what the economy needs (again)

The more the 'Credit Crunch' seems to bite, the more the blame-game is being played.

You're to blame, no you are. It's the banks.
No, it's the hedge-fund manager.
The short sellers are to blame.
The Government should have send the regulators in way earlier I say.
It's the cheap import, we can't compete any more!
No, it's the number of immigrants taking over our jobs.
How about the property developers, they forced up the house prices way too high in the first place, all for a quick buck.
The shareholders - they are to blame!

How refreshing is it then to read the article by Sir Jonathan Sacks (Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth) in this Saturday's Times, putting his finger on the real issue IMHO:

Morals: the one thing markets don't make - No amount of regulation will restore our sense of honour and shame. Economics needs ethics

"Often, these past months, I have found myself going back to one of the most painful conversations I have had. It was with one of Britain's leading industrialists. He had led his company to consistent success for decades. When I met him he had retired and was near the end of his life.

He was not a religious man but he was a deeply moral one. He spoke of the principles that had guided him in business and of the salary he had drawn. It was not negligible, but it was modest. What pained him was that his successor had awarded himself a salary ten times that amount, while systematically destroying the company he had so carefully built."

"Common to these stories is the gradual disappearance of the cluster of principles that went by the name of morality. Whatever its source - religion, conscience, custom or code - it meant that there are certain things you don't do because they are not done."

"Somehow, between the 1960s and 1980s the idea prevailed that we could do without the moral sense. Who needed it any more? In the 1960s we thought that the State would take care of our problems. In the 1980s we thought that the market would. Self-imposed restraints were dismissed as outmoded and killjoy. Greed was good. The guy with the most toys when he dies, wins."
(I'll hope you will read the whole article!)

He ends his marvellous and full of - for some hurting - truths article (rant?) with this pondering question:

The big question is: how do we learn to be moral again? Markets were made to serve us; we were not made to serve markets. Economics needs ethics. Markets do not survive by market forces alone. They depend on respect for the people affected by our decisions. Lose that and we lose not just money and jobs but something more significant still: freedom, trust and decency, the things that have a value, not a price.

I sincerely hope we go back to 'the old times' where ethical and honest common sense principles of "doing good for the long-term benefit of all of us" wasn't even thought about: it was just there.

In every dealing you do, in every contact/contract you make.

It seems to be forgotten by most, traded in for short term individual benefit. Let's take that pledge again and work ethical on/for the long term benefits and value for all. It is really simple to do - just give it a decent try.

You'll at least sleep better tonight.


Optional

An ad yesterday made me wonder:

Optional warranty - does it break down without? The product - in this case the new Miele S7 - comes with something extra: optional 10 year warranty.
Checking their own website one of the features (benefit?) states:

Long Term Reliability: the S7 has been designed and tested for a life of 1000 working hours, that's up to 20 years use!

So what's up with this optional 10 year warranty? (Extra cost of £ 30.00)

A product is promoted - guaranteed? - to last at least 10 years, according to their own statement even up to 20 years - or it is not.

Buy it without the optional extra costs of warranty and it is guaranteed to break down within 10 years time?


Flooring the Consumer interview

Social Media is a funny thing, you meet all kinds of people world wide. Sometimes it's a Social Media Tool you share, sometimes it's a marketing method you both are implementing and want to compare results, and sometimes because - no matter where in the wide world the other is based - you work in the same type of business/trade.

That's how Christine B. Whittemore and I met - well, through a combination of reasons, the Z-list from end 2006 and the fact both our main blogs are about flooring:


Beginning this month CB asked me the following questions - as part of her weekly blog series: "Social Media bridging old and new" (and according to CB it also falls in the "Flooring It Differently" category):

  1. How/why did I get involved in Social Media?
  2. What do you like most about social media?
  3. What do you like least about social media?
  4. How have you used social media to promote your business?
  5. What 5 suggestions do you have for companies to implement so they can more effectively bridge old media with new media and connect with end users?
  6. Any other thoughts to share about effectiveness of social media in forging stronger relationships with customers?

I did warn her about my inability to keep things short (I keep things simple, that should be obvious ;-)) - did I 'floor the consumer'?

You decide, and do say hello to CB when your there.


Well done Wellworth, the latest Green Shoot

Last week - as most of all weeks - the news was filled with doom and gloom stories about the economy, the recession, the redundancies, the closures and struggling businesses.
But hurray, there was one significant Green Shoot the journalists did dare to report - always wonder when they too realise we're kinda fed up with doom and gloom stories, I hear from more they don't really turn on the TV to watch the news lately.

When Woolsworths - a dinosaur institution - closed the last of its 807 shop early January was this really due to the recession or, as my insertion mentions, had it become too old, too rigid, too stuck in its ways to survive the changes of this Millennia?
(In Ashford there used to be a Woolworths too, brown lino on the floor and rows of just a little bit of everything. From cd's, clothes, small electrical goods, cutlery and linen to books and toys - never sure I think of its target market.)

It seems the shop manager of "Woollies" in Dorchester had no intentions to let things end this way - as things had ended for most dinosaurs. There is still life in the beast I presume she thought, if the beast adepts to the modern times (there are still offspring of dinosaurs around too).
"Dorchester always was a profitable shop, even though the company wasn't."

Wellies, a Green Shoot shrugging of the recession With backing from financiers she re-opened the old location of Woollies in Dorchester, changed the name to "Wellworth" - adding a catch phrase: well worth the money" - which now already has been nicknamed "Wellies" and kept the best bits of the dinosaur, those bits the local customers liked. Familiar items and familiar faces:

Pick & Mix and more importantly re-employed 20-22 of her old staff (in the news report I watch some of the employees shed a tear of joy and pride no doubt!).

But no more cd's, dvd's or clothing. Claire Robertson has filled "Wellies" with more locally produced lines: pet and craft section and wooden toys.
This local focus in products will no doubt support not just her shop but more businesses in the region: now that's got to be a win-win situation in anyones book!

So, well done "Wellies" and all the best! Go for it!

(sources: Brournemouth Echo and Daily Start)


In search of conversations

In these days of online conversations - aka Social Media Tools - many businesses are engaging with their prospects and clients on the Internet. Through blogs - which I prefer to call dynamic and interactive web sites = "blog-sites" - YouTube, Facebook, MyBlogLog, LinkedIn, various forums and Twitter.

In December and January I dipped my toes in the Twitter world, in search for mini conversations: twittering or tweeting to followers in 140 characters. And on 21 January I had enough and 'untweeted' myself. The post I wrote about it focussed on what I experienced as seeing only one side of the conversation. I didn't get it.

February saw an avalanche of white papers, blog-articles, free reports and even handbooks on how Twitter is working for so many businesses. And as many of you know I'm never averse of publishing comments left, right and center about my own experiences. The avalanche became so thick and quick I almost decide I didn't even want to 'get it'.

This decision was halted at the end of last week.

Martin Malden - the WealthyDragon - wrote: "Is Twitter the New List?" on his blog Creating an Awesome Home Business. And low and behold, someone else had already left a comment that reflected my own feelings towards the subject.

"I can see this approach working for a very large company. It’s free and easy to blast a short message to throngs of people. If they pick up on it, great. If not, who cares?

For a home business, this just isn’t the case. You’re trying to establish deeper relationships with less people and I just don’t see that happening in 140 characters. Quality versus quantity."

Chris O - Referral Key - Your Trusted Referral Network

I followed suit with my own comments on list building. And a very interesting discussion started, listing experiences and 'tactics' about using Twitter for list building.

The 'tactics' - in the best meaning of the word - Martin listed made me think. Specially when he talked about using Twitter's search function on specific keywords to find other Twitters asking questions on subjects Martin feels he can help with.

Questionmark So, what if you forget about Twitter as "conventional" Age of Conversation Tool and use it as a "finding Tool" for those in need of your expertise? The search on keywords can be rss-feeded into any 'blog-reader'.
Instead of watching the one side of conversations of those you follow, you use Twitter to contact the Twittee (?) who asked the question. You offer help in the form of a link to an article, blog-post or even, as Martin frequently does, write a whole new article/post to address the question.

Now, that's in my 'conventional' web-marketing eyes a perfect way to build a list and start a conversational relationship with new leads, prospects and clients in more than one way and in more than 140 characters. Twitter as start, not as "only on".

Don't you just love it when inventions turn into an innovation

"So are you saying that invention is merely the creation of some technology, but that the innovation is the idea of applying it to a previously unexploited market?"
Arthur M Gallagher

I can see that work for every small business: turning the invention Twitter, the mini-blog tool, into the innovation for finding those in need of your expertise/knowledge/experiences and as start of the relationship building conversation. Now that's what I do get.

You know what's funny (in my eyes at least)? I only realised this through an 'old fashion' multi-contributors discussion in the comment box of Martin's blog. Would the same have happened through mini-blogs of 140 characters?

Directions Next project: setting up a new Twitter account for Wood You Like and we'll be in search for those needing help on all matters related to wooden flooring. Our FAQ & News site (aka business blog) has plenty of useful articles already we can direct them to and if needed we will write a special post for the answer.