You’re as good as anybody

But never forget you’re no better than anybody, either.

Joshua Wooden

The title and the first line are a quote from Joshua Wooden, the father of legendary basketball coach, John Wooden.

It is actually one element of “The Wisdom of Joshua Wooden.”



Yes, this is on the wall in my office.

No, I am not consistently applying this wisdom…but I continue to improve.

Yes, I am a student of John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success and the wisdom of his teachings. Honest, humble, willing to help…all the points in this picture. Read the story about how Joshua gave this to his sons when they graduated from grade school. This makes me think back to what I tried to pass on to my sons when they finished grade school. I don’t remember. But since they are doing very well, I will believe that something I said formed the foundation from which they have taken off.

100% parent pride!

The best thing we can give our kids are “strong roots and wings.”

I believe this is what leaders need to provide to their employees, too. Let’s consider the 7 point creed:

  1. Be true to yourself: you need to be who you are consistently. If you are moody, indecisive, etc. then how can you expect others to follow you or do what you ask? Care for yourself, show others you care (and are sometimes vulnerable) and be the best version of you everyday.
  2. Help others: You need to know how each person reacts to praise, correction and criticism. If someone doesn’t “get it” that is on the leader to help them get it or help them move on.
  3. Make each day your masterpiece: do your best when your best is needed. Your best is needed every day.
  4. Drink deeply from good books: There is so much to learn from classics, new thinking, fiction, biography, etc. You will not agree with everything – that is good. Do try and learn something from them. I keep notebooks where I write great insights or create something on my own so I can apply at the right time. This is about giving yourself a bigger and better toolbox.
  5. Make friendship a fine art: I am blessed to have many dear friends. Some from as far back as grade 2. Others that i have met more recently. If you are friendly to people, especially that sincere smile and “good morning” you can change a person’s day. My friends always change my day for the better.
  6. Build shelter against a rainy day: financially, spiritually and physically. How are you ensuring this shelter for yourself and your family? How are you creating shelter for your employees as we still fight through the COVID situation?
  7. Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings each day: My friend Nick almost died a couple decades ago. Thankfully he is still here. He told me that he starts every day by going outside and looking to the sky and giving thanks for a great day. After he told me this, I now do it every morning when walking Trappar (and previously with Trax) – Thank you Lord for another great and wonderful day! Do you thank your staff every day? Every day??? If not, why not?

Simple, yet not too simple. Fundamentals. If you master the fundamentals you can evolve and grow because of your strong foundation. And like a great football team, you always practice the fundamentals so that you know you can make adjustments to your game plan as necessary. Everything stems from fundamentals. Everything.

We live in a great country. We are all Canadians. We should all be proud of how great this country is. We are no better and no worse than anyone else.

We will be celebrating on July 1 with a family bbq. My little sister is glad I have to stay 6 feet away so I can’t bug her – I love you sis! I wonder if she will notice the whoopee cushion:)

To those south of the border – Happy 4th of July!

Happy Canada Day, eh!!!

Have you stopped to smell the flowers lately?

We have some fabulous peonies in our front and back yards. They are extra special because they were from my Dad’s house. He always liked to see them bloom at our place because it kept a piece of him always with us. More-so since he passed away almost 12 years ago.

The past two weeks have been amazing to watch the plants grow their stalks, then bud, and then bloom. I love when Gwen cuts some of the four colours and brings them into the house. Although we have stopped after one bouquet because we have so many bees visiting and we don’t want to interrupt their work anymore.

Tied in with the peonies starting to bud is the work the ants are doing to help the blossoms open. Other non-harmful insects have also been noticed – including ladybugs!

As I have zeroed in on these points, I began to look closely at our neighbour’s apple tree in the same way. First the branches got strong, then the leaves came out, then the blossoms and now apples are growing.

I have a large ant hill in one section of my back yard. I am trying to get rid of it because it is too close to the house and I do not want them inside. Watching them work reminds me of my youth when we would watch the ants never stop working (hmm, a theme?).

My sons have really been into birding in the past few years – they were always animal guys. They turned me on to the Cornell Lab Merlin bird app. Now I track sightings and register them on the app.

I am not going to say this is all due to COVID. I would like to believe that my normal interest in nature would keep me interested.

Perhaps this is due to an increased focus on details. And also introspection.

What a terrific time for everyone in their work and personal life to take some time and reset. I have written about how you can, and MUST, assess and improve your overall marketing plan. Postings here and in my monthly Winnipeg Free Press articles have also covered selling and customer service needs and responsibilities.

And I have to thank my grade 6 science teacher, Mr. Penner, for another aspect of this focus. He drove home that the difference between mankind and all other animals is “brains and hands, imagination and skill.” We used to laugh at his insistence on this point.

I hope he is pleased that his efforts finally took hold – I guess I am a slow learner.

So, how should we apply this concept more broadly to our work these days:

  • Brains – we need to think more deeply about everything. I am not judging because that is up to you and your personal situation and beliefs. The good Lord will judge me when the time is right. He expects me to use my grey matter to make myself better and to do good in the world with others. This means applying critical thinking. This means learning from other really smart people that are investigating and uncovering new concepts and truths about human behavior and our capabilities.
  • Hands – we need to do things. Action is required. As Yoda said in Star Wars “do or do not, there is no try.” I am anything but handy when it comes to actually making or fixing something. My brothers-in-law wonder why I have power tools (yes, I do use them). But the work I do requires action and therefore my hands they are a typing and writing. Ideally after I have used my brain 🙂
  • Imagination – Albert Einstein famously said “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” I have nothing more to add.
  • Skill – defined as the ability to do something. If you are really skilled you might be considered an expert. The craftsmen of The Repair Shop have tremendous skill. The companies that rejigged their production facilities in a short period to make supplies in the COVID fight showed skill and other factors. You have skill, too.

Walt Disney tied a bow around this with his famous motto: Dream, Believe, Dare, Do.

This is your to do list for the future.

Take your gifts and do the best you are capable of.

And maybe taking some time to smell the flowers will inspire something special with you!

Why is customer service worse than ever?

As the economy begins to open, consumers are eager to get some fresh air and shop in person. We are by nature, gregarious, and after being locked up for several months, people are ready for in-person interactions.

In my quest for examples of good, and not so good, customer experiences, I am finding more of the negative situations. For those that have read my posts before, I do NOT mention the lousy firm by name unless it is one of the big tech or named after a long South American river.

In football, every play – whether good or bad – is a teachable moment. A great coach knows how to redirect and reinforce the player’s actions from the head down. The player needs to know what they are looking at and then be able to know their responsibilities. Let’s take a look and see what we can learn:

  • a good friend lives in Alberta and used the app for an international pizza chain. I say “used” because of the experience he has removed it. He checked his phone and received a notice that his two free pizzas were redeemed in Kingston, Ontario. He is in Alberta. He checked with his local franchise and was told nothing he could do. My friend then called the Kingston store and was told they had a video of the person that redeemed. But there was nothing they could do other than suggest contacting corporate. When the call to corporate was made, the spokesperson said that it was my friend’s fault. Yep, that is what he was told. They gave him the two free pizzas, but he declined. So, he has uninstalled the app.
  • a friend went to a store to buy the foamy soap we like. Great flavours – my favorite is black cherry merlot (no, not drinkable). The store had a limit of customers in the store. But there were groups of people that went in and of course only one person in each group was actually buying. And the staff spent more time talking to each other than assisting customers. So, of course the process was agonizingly slow.
  • another friend received a lovely bouquet bunch of flowers. Just a bunch is what it looked like as half the flowers were dead or dying. When the local Alberta florist was contacted, the only offer was to cover a delivery charge. No offer to replace the flowers or even a credit towards a future purchase.
  • my recent order of some medical supplies left me with a couple of items on back-order. You never get a message as to when the back-ordered items are ready for pick up. I used to call to one of the staff that provided her number to confirm availability before I drove halfway across the city to have the products not ready. But she just retired and I wish her much happiness and calmer days 🙂 I called and left a message to determine if the supplies were in. In fact, I left a message on two different lines. I took a flyer and went down and the supplies were in. That was two days ago. I have still not received a call.

So, what does this mean? People, despite your level of digital evolution, can still make or break your level of delight with your clients. For example, the pizza chain had an app, and online methods to order. Despite their best efforts to make the ordering process easier, their inability to manage the security of their app and the poor human interaction has cost them a good customer that spent $30 to $50 each month.

What did these companies do during the lockdown to get ready for reopening? If they furloughed staff how did they get people ready to come back and serve? What training did they employ? What expectations did they set? People are ready to buy in person, but if you do NOT manage the in-person experience the bricks and mortar retailers are just driving people to shop fully on line.

And what did the staff do to get ready? Are they eager and hungry to serve? Or are they mad that they have to work now that summer and nice weather is finally here.

Most, if not all, of you have probably watched or heard Simon Sinek’s famous Ted Talk “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Winning companies will take this concept and apply it consistently in all that they do. However, it is not simply “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Just because someone says this is “why” we do something, doesn’t establish a real sense of value for employees or customers.  Although Simon Sinek is correct, it took a wonderful video by Roy H Williams to point out why most people misinterpret this message. According to Roy, it is only when people can see your actions that support your internal beliefs that they will be able to grasp your “why.” And you must make sure your entire organization has alignment on these beliefs.

Think about your organization. Do your employees have beliefs that are reinforced by their daily interactions and in your systems and processes? Be honest. If there is a gap in what you believe and what you are doing, your customers will find this inconsistency very quickly and cast you aside.

There is still time to recover and reset. This is a coachable moment.

Hey coach, do you know how to make the adjustments and coach your players to perform better?


Can the Sequel be Better than the Original?

I am a huuuuge Bugs Bunny fan. I have almost all the cartoons. I have several books about the history and evolution of Bugs and his co-stars. Saturday at 5 PM used to be The Bugs Bunny Show. Other iterations included Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes, among others.

Mel Blanc was a craftsman with his voice characterizations. More than just a simple voice over, he was the character when he spoke. Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, and Robert McKimson were absolutely brilliant as Directors with each bringing their own elements of comedic greatness to the shows.

Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck,  Sylvester and Tweetie, Tasmanian Devil, Black Jacques Shellaq, and so many more. This was a generational cartoon. Funny and witty. Yes, how did kids understand some of the sidebar comments and “winks” to the audience.

And then came concerns that the cartoon was too violent for kids. As I was no longer a kid, well age -wise anyhow, I was appalled at this move. Some of the best scenes were removed from the epic cartoons because of violence. No one ever died. It is a fictional cartoon – NOT real.

Yet, around the same time the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers came onto the kid cartoon scene, along with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. All kinds of violence in these.

And now the latest move is that all guns are being removed from the reboot of Bugs Bunny. Elmer will not be able to shoot himself. But he can run with a scythe. Really? How is this better and making the statement that appears to be made? Apparently dynamite will also be used.

Seriously! Read this:

Originally I was going to write about how you need to know your audience and use innovation to adjust and adapt your product. Seems appropriate for an old school Luddite cartoon buff to have to think differently. After all, I work with clients on this stuff.

While shaking my head about this story, I scrolled through the Google news only to see a headline: New “Call of Duty Modern Warfare” and “Warzone” Season 4 Start Date Leaks Out, But Be Careful.

After re-reading the article I was struck by the disparity in the two news stories. One completely rewrote a classic cartoon. And the other says be careful about a leaked date to a video game that is so real and where you shoot guns and actually kill characters. How do you justify this insanity?

Send me your answers because I have none.

Back to the innovation. One theory of innovation is called “Outcome Driven Innovation and it is based on the “Jobs To Be Done” theory that is a very deliberate and detailed review of your customer’s actual job they are trying to do. Only then, as Professor Clayton Christenson (RIP) and Tony Ulwick, Strategyn, suggest in their seminal work, can you actually define what type of innovation is needed that will be used. In my case, I need Bugs Bunny to make me laugh. Politically correct Bugs does not make me laugh. I don’t actually know who will find it funny. The latest innovation of the cartoon has failed me. Now, how big a market do I represent? I don’t know. But if I look at the size of the age demo I am in, potentially this can be a big miss on the market for the tv studio. That is, if most others think the way I do. And there is no guarantee of that.

Some of the essential areas that you should focus on for your innovation include:

  • what do your customers do with your product or service now?
  • how do you know if this actually supports what the users really need to get done?
  • what is your precise methodology to accumulate and analyze and test what you find?
  • how will your team react to this new level of detail. I am quite certain that most companies do not go to this detailed level to know what the accounts payable “A to L” clerk actually has to do on a daily basis

Most vendors of products and services believe, or at least somewhat believe they offer a good solution. It is natural to think we are better than our competitors. But we often do not know because we have not actually tested our competitor. We have not done a true side-by-side comparison of what features the users truly value to get their daily job done.

Time to think differently and deeply about innovation – from your customer’s needs and job they are trying to get done.





The Longest Day

“Believe me, Lang, the first twenty-four hours of the invasion will be decisive…the fate of Germany depends on the outcome…for the Allies, as well as Germany, it will be the longest day.”

Field Marshall Erwin Rommel to his aide, April 22, 1944

Rommel made that statement about the longest day nearly two months before Operation Overlord was launched. And on June 6, 1944, he repeated it to his aide again.

When the fate of the free world was hanging in the balance, the Allies needed to plan the most complete and decisive invasion in the history of the world. I am finishing Cornelius Ryan’s terrific classic of D-Day “The Longest Day.” Ryan reviewed countless official war documents from all countries, interviewed many survivors from both sides of the war, and collected other first person accounts of the planning that led to the invasion, and then the invasion itself.

The level of detail that was included in the Allied plans accounted for almost every conceivable situation that would arise. But not all. Some would benefit the Allies and others would not.

When I work with companies on their planning exercise or when I teach strategic planning, I always say “no one can predict the future.” Because of this, you must understand the most important factors you will face and how you will react if these might change at some point in the future. At a high level this is scenario planning. But most organizations do not have the time to address the positive and negative impact of the details.

One approach is to conduct a PESTEL analysis – political, economic, social, technological, environmental, legal. Knowing what might happen should be part of your regular marketplace assessments as you seek new trends, big ideas and other factors that may impact you or your customers.

Lots of intelligence gathering took place before the invasion plans were developed. Here are some of the PESTEL aspects that the invasion had to consider:

  • political – what was the overall will of the Allies to make another invasion attempt after previous efforts failed? What was the human cost going to be and how would you define “acceptable losses” to still keep citizens supportive of the efforts? How could the French underground continue to help with intelligence and delay tactics prior to the invasion? What else would Hitler and the Germans do?
  • economic – what was the cost and how could it be paid? What was the cost if the invasion was not completed?
  • social – the Axis forces were seeking world domination and the death toll was staggering on all fronts. Long-term social freedom was at stake and had to be seen as the ultimate and necessary goal.
  • technological – using radar to track, radios to communicate, clickers to communicate (a sequence was created so that soldiers could check the validity of others in the dark), carrier pigeons to send messages back to the ships or England from the landing beaches
  • environment – weather forecasts (no human can control), tides (dictate when you can land), wind direction and speed at certain times of the day (affecting the paratroopers being dropped behind the German lines)
  • legal – fighting oppression and evil meant that almost all tactics were legal against the opposition military. There was still humanity involved

When was the last time that you assessed these factors, particularly in our current world? A winning game plan prepares adjustments so that you are not surprised when you have to make tactical changes in the future. Continued assessment of the situation and the results of your implementation efforts is necessary to ensure you can still achieve your objective.

Also critical to the success of your plan is that everyone in your organization knows what their role is within the overall plan. Each specialty area of the military was involved from:

  • training efforts of the soldiers depending on what their role was – parachute or landing on one of the five beaches
  • supply chain – how do you get food, petrol, medical supplies and other necessary items for 500,000 soldiers and an array of equipment onto beaches loaded with mines and other impediments?
  • coordination with different countries forces required on leader – Dwight D. Eisenhower was the Supreme Allied Commander.
  • Logistics – on sea and in the air to achieve landfall. 882 planes carrying 13,000 troops to land behind the main German defense line on the coast of Normandy, at night, with a breeze, and on a clock to acquire key physical targets to aid the troops that would be landing at 6:00 AM. And the flotilla of troop ships, the warships that had to bombard the beaches and German placements to make the landing a bit safer
  • etc.

Talk about project management!

I have always been interested in history, and in particular military history. I will be finishing the book by June 6 to try and soak in the magnitude of the effort and the cost of freedom. The Allies’ success on the longest day allows me to write this column today. Thank you to all who served in any capacity. Thanks Dad.

And around the world today, I pray for grace to others, peace and justice.

2 Timothy, 1:7 says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”


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

Fear and Hope

This post will not end where you think it will based on the headline. So…

These two emotions have been at play a lot during the COVID situation. Individuals were fearful at the beginning as the situation grew progressively more hopeless. The health impact and death was going to be the worst in human history. Politicians blamed for doing too much or doing not enough. The situation changed on a daily basis.

Then the economic reality and impact resulted in disaster for countless businesses. Good friends saw their revenues plummet. Restaurants and food service closed. Hospitality got hammered. Wholesalers and distributors were caught with excess inventory. Contracts were cancelled or delayed indefinitely.

The bottom was nowhere in sight.

We were fearful and hopeless.

Lots of brilliant medical people and researchers were tasked with finding a way to stop the virus while we became “socially close and physically distant.” It seemed like this was how we could do our part

But the situation was changing daily. How can we overcome such a dramatic situation – worldwide, no less!!!

We switched the words and changed our mindset. Leaders took charge and made difficult decisions. Their leadership teams hunkered down and thought deeply about what was required.

Leaders and sales reps talked to clients more than ever. No selling – just questions, listening and compassion.

Marketers did real marketing – they learned about their target market, reinforced their company’s strength and differentiation, and created tactical responses to help their customers grow.

What did we flip?

We became FEARLESS…NOT hopeful.

We became like the Stoics. It is not what happens it is how you respond. Marcus Aurelius, led the Roman Empire through a worldwide pandemic. He led from the front. He met with the smartest doctors of the day.  He was ever present in government making decisions. The disease lasted 15 years and eventually took Aurelius’ life before  the end of this event.

Fast forward to today. It is no longer about what is happening to us, it is how we will react to the pandemic situation in all its areas. The creativity, thoughtfulness, support, and commitment that people display is unbelievable.

IT developers working almost 24 x 7 to complete an update to account for the federal government payroll support program. Winnipeg company.

IT developers working 24 x 7 to ensure that decisions on financing could be made even faster and provide support to manage the credit products was accomplished. Winnipeg company.

Looking forward and not living in the past. Thinking about what needs to change now, what will go back in the future and what the combination of virtual and real human contact will look like in 3, 6, 12+ months from now. Winnipeg companies.

All of this came from an understanding of their customer needs now and going forward (one week at a time). They were all acting like marketers because they asked and listened. They assessed and discussed these new insights within their companies. And they took bold steps to change and adjust and ADAPT.


Oh yes, there is a lot of anxiety. “What if” scenarios of good, bad and ugly allowed for grounding of expectations with an eye to what was going to be necessary to restart and expand when the governments lift restrictions impacting our economic engine.

And yet, we must soldier forward.

Experts, like CMC,  can help guide businesses to adapt their business models and see their customer needs more clearly. Subject Matter Experts (SME) apply discipline and rigor to assessment and tactics.

Nobody can predict the future, so we must prepare for the options. Better yet, we can lead through the challenges and reshape important ways we conduct business.

At the end of the day it comes down to people. Understanding them is essential to getting through this. Bill Bernbach, legendary ad man said ““It took millions of years for man’s instincts to develop. It will take millions more for them to even vary. It is fashionable to talk about changing man. A communicator must be concerned with unchanging man, with his obsessive drive to survive, to be admired, to succeed, to love, to take care of his own.”

There will be adjustments – I cannot predict them. Think deeply about what Bernbach said and apply to your situation while you increase the knowledge of your customers and employees.

And do this fearlessly.