A couple of weeks ago as I strolled past the family room I could hear English accents. I asked my wife what she was watching. “The Repair Shop,” she replied. “OK, what is it about?” Well, with a descriptive title why would I ask that…who knows? Kindly as always, after these many decades of putting up with this type of question from me, she said, “they restore old family heirlooms and damaged keepsakes.”

I was officially intrigued because of my keen “Mr. Fixit” capabilities.  Full disclosure – I am mechanically “declined.”

The show concept is that there is a group of craftsmen and craftswomen that have unique specialties ranging from woodwork to smithing to ceramic repair to saddlery to clock repair to typewrite repair. Most of these men and women are in their 60’s and beyond. Here are the traits that I most admire in these artisans:

  • always have a positive attitude
  • always friendly with the people bringing in the items for repair (yes, it is scripted TV, but it is so well done)
  • no loud noises
  • after receiving the item and learning some of the backstory they always ask, “what would you like me to do?”
  • nothing is “awesome” – they actually use the complete English language to describe what they do, how they do it, and how it makes them feel
  • they can focus on intricate details for extended periods
  • they care
  • they care deeply
  • they are proud of their work
  • many are master craftsmen/craftswomen or tradespersons. Specialists in their craft with decades of experience and successes
  • everyone of the team has had to learn from making mistakes and getting better
  • they work with colleagues on projects that require different types of expertise
  • they care – did I mention this already?
  • they are perfectionists
  • they are a family
  • they innovate – many components of old items are not available so they have to create replacements with different material. The results are stunning
  • they have an amazing attention to detail
  • they describe the history of the item and share memories and stories that truly bring the item to life
  • they enjoy seeing the looks on the faces of their customers when they come in to pick up the item – often there are tears of joy and hugs are provided

As you look at this list, how many items can you place a check mark beside because  you consistently do it? Consider this a personal development plan for yourself and your employees.


  • care about what you do
  • care about the quality of what you do
  • practice to get better
  • ensure you know what the goal is
  • connect with your customer
  • ask for help
  • learn
  • keep learning
  • build some resilience because you will need to overcome challenges in your life
  • care about the quality of the job you do

As Coach John Wooden said, “if you don’t do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

We do live in a throw away society. And while there are many “things” that can be easily replaced, there are certain precious items that hold memories that cannot be replaced. It is nice to know there are people that are good enough and care enough to complete these repairs and bring joy back to the owner.

What a wonderful world it will be when we can cherish more fully and care deeply about the work we do and the value we provide to our customers.

And this works with personal relationships, too. Be a craftsman with your relationships, too.

Thanks for letting me watch the show, dear.

I think I will spruce up the BBQ this weekend.

Picture this – Tim the tool man. Maybe I could make a TV show about this? Nah, it would never sell 🙂

I’ll just stick to what I am good at.

The More Things Change…

The more they stay the same…

This adage has been around forever – well at least since 1839 when it was first coined by Alphonse Karr. His original French quote is “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”

In this time of such reported upheaval and business disruption, how could I possibly be focusing on this?!?!

Well, consider that none other than Jeff “richest guy in the world” Bezos, popped back into the news last week as one of his famous quotes from 2017 was:

“I very frequently get the question: “What’s going to change in the next 10 years?” And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: “What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?” And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. … [I]n our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection.

It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, “Jeff, I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher.” “I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.” Impossible.

And so the effort we put into those things, spinning those things up, we know the energy we put into it today will still be paying off dividends for our customers 10 years from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.”

But wait! There’s more! In Bezos’ 1997 shareholder letter he wrote:

“We believe that a fundamental measure of our success will be the shareholder value we create over the long term … Because of our emphasis on the long term, we may make decisions and weigh tradeoffs differently than some companies.”


So while we are reconsidering our business models and delivery systems and staff structures and how to eat in public places we seem to be scurrying about madly without focus. No one can predict the future, so how best to plan for what is next coming out of this pandemic?

If we understand our current customers (from our target profile) and try to learn more about why other target customers do not actually buy from us now, we will understand what won’t change. Consider the following for your business:

  • will your customers still need your product or service in the future? If not, what is actually stopping them from leaving you today?
  • what customer behaviour – likes and dislikes, wants and needs – will not change in the future? If you are in retail, people will still want to try on clothes. The question then becomes – how do you deliver this?
  • how much will people want to continue to shop online? Curbside has been great, but don’t you want to pick the fruits and vegetables yourself? What about a nice steak? “I’ll take that one…no, the one right next to it.”
  • how easy have you made it to contact your business? Have you really upgraded all your contact points? Several large businesses and government departments I have contacted have NOT improved their customer contact points. Hey, telecom provider – why did you send me duplicate bills in the mail this month???
  • what have your sales reps been doing? Are they lamenting not being able to see their customers or have they increased the contact? And I am NOT talking about a “we are here for you” phone call. Be helpful and ready; not maudlin.
  • are you increasing communication with your employees? Why did it take a crisis for you to do this???

This is a good starter list for assessing what might and might not be changing. Hint: check human behaviour in past major crises and see what has not changed forever.

The big suggestion is to think deeply about this topic. It is an important initial step in creating your winning game plan – something else that won’t change.


Advertising is for the Birds!

Let me begin with a confession – I do not speak bird…of any type. The closest I get is to imitate (poorly) Foghorn Leghorn and some of his famous sayings.

Last week there was a unique bird call coming through our bedroom window in the afternoon. It was sunny and cool and this bird was merrily singing a song I had not heard before. Perched on a fairly high branch, still bereft of greenery, was a round robin. I blinked and checked again due to the uniqueness of his wonderful song.

Yep, hello Mr. Robin.

I started thinking about why this was a song I could not recollect hearing before. I take pride in my (very) amateur ornithology skills. I use the Cornell Lab app to record rare-ish bird sightings.

And then it hit me – it is spring and this young robin’s fancy has turned to attracting a mate! He was advertising his services in a very unique way. As I pondered my insight further, and assuming I was correct in my birding assumption, I marveled at the parallels to real advertising and what makes it successful. Some of my thoughts that your winning advertising should also include are:

  • What was this bird saying – whatever it was it was obviously targeted at a specific audience
  • Did the bird get the response he wanted? Only when you track results will you know for sure
  • Does he back up his message with something of value? Is his product or service (not sure what you call this in “robin”) something that his target audience wants and needs?
  • Does he worry about other birds that may hear his message that are not his target audience? His medium doesn’t matter because his message is what is important!
  • What about the risk of attracting predators? Singing from a high branch allows him to see who might be waiting to check out the “customers” that this male Sinatra is attracting. He would then be able to warn them before they got in trouble. In our world, our message will be heard by business predators – it is the price we pay
  • How long will you keep singing your message? Until one of the target audience responds. I saw some other robins flying around, but I didn’t pry…
  • Was this robin willing to offend other male robins? You bet – he clearly thought he was the best available option for a female robin and he was willing to continue to sing and then prove it later. He knows his product well and stands by its performance!
  • This robin has other songs he sings throughout the rest of his time here. And each of those songs has a different meaning. Just like your advertising – you will have different messages at different times.
  • Robin’s are transactional sellers – they do not mate for life. I am suggesting that real businesses should be looking to establish a longer term relationship because it is expensive to have to get new customers – lots of effort is required.

The advertising most companies run is largely designed to reach “the general public.” Wrong – know your target audience so you can craft a message that, while being broadcast widely, is designed to reach a particular person.

Let’s think about this. When you listen to the radio, watch TV, see an outdoor billboard, you are receiving the message as a single consumer. You make your decisions on what to do with that message based on its validity and importance to you. Using broadcast media does not mean you are creating a message designed for “the general public.” You are simply using a tool that exposes many people to a single message, the same message you would give if you were sitting across a table from them.

If you have something to say, say it with style and meaning and be willing to offend those that you do not want/need as a customer.

How do I know this is true?

A little birdie told me…

Calvin and Hobbes Marketing

Calvin and Hobbes is probably my favourite cartoon. There are others near the top of the list, yet whenever I need a good chuckle and different view on life I will crack open one of Bill Watterson’s classics compilations. We might have all of them in our house.

I applaud Watterson because he never sold out and licensed any aspect of the cartoon. The only thing he did was make the cartoon. So, if you see any pictures or images of the characters you know they are illegal.

Part of the genius of this strip is the perspective that Calvin has on life. And he tackles almost any subject. Let’s pick marketing to start. Lots of people love “Big Data” and there are some important findings often uncovered during analysis. But, so often it is the “small data” that tells the real story. Like this:


To every non-marketer – do you always believe the data you read? And marketers – it is your responsibility to help your colleagues understand the accuracy of the data upon which you are making those major corporate decisions about your customer likes and dislikes.

Product extensions are another way to reach all potential users in a category, like this:


Knowing this, we should be aware of the importance of target marketing:

C&H target marketing

You see, great marketers know that you must understand your target market very well. You have to watch them in person, whether that is live or online, to get a sense of their behaviour. Great marketers also know that what someone does one week does not automatically guarantee the same behaviour in the future.

C&H ads

We also have to know what makes our product or service better than anyone else’s. If we ask, we may not like the answers:

C&H chewing magazine

And yet, getting these answers can help us understand what is necessary for improved product or service development. We need to listen – actively and regularly. From many sources. And we need to distill this data into conclusions and implications so that business performance can be improved.

And yes, I believe that holistic marketing (4P’s, differentiation and real strategy) is the center of business because this is the only department that consistently puts the customer at the center of the relationship.

Know your customer or you will have no customer.

Calvin and Hobbes