Three Rules for Business Success

In 2017, I wrote my Business Rule #1.

Here’s a more complete list.

#1: Have what customers want.

#2: Have it where they want it.

#3: Have it when they want it.

They sound simple. Most laugh when they hear them.

But, businesses too often violate these rules.

Sometimes they violate these rules because they miscalculated.

Coke’s New Coke disaster is an example of that. A key mistake Coke managers made was to assume the results of blind taste tests represented how customers would behave in the real world. One difference, for example, was that while a sweeter drink fared better without food, lots of folks  preferred original Coke with food.

Sometimes it’s a conscious trade-off.

The chef in the linked post closes the kitchen in her restaurant when the last person who’d like to eat there finishes ordering. Most other restaurants, however, make the conscious trade-off to close the kitchen at a set time every night, because keeping it open later doesn’t pay off.

Sometimes they simply don’t understand what their customers want. There’s a shocking number of folks in business in this camp.

In the early 2000s, Walmart became so singularly focused on low prices — what they thought their customers wanted — that they let the client experience slip. Stores got sloppy and checkout lines were long as they tightly managed their cashier labor.

Even price sensitive customers, like myself, got turned off and discovered that you ‘get what you pay for.’ I found myself frequenting Target more. The prices were higher, but the stores were well kept and the checkout lines were short.

It turns out that while price matters, so does convenience and experience.

To Walmart’s credit, they noticed and responded by investing in client experience by cleaning up their stores and shortening the checkout lines, just as they are now responding to the new conveniences innovated by Amazon.

The best businesses over the long haul tend to do the best job at developing a deep understanding of these simple rules.

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“Coco” on success

I finally recently saw the blockbuster movie Coco.

Spoiler alert…I give away some things about the movie in this post, so stop reading if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t like spoilers.

The movie provides a good example of another overlooked dimension of success: the less savory things people sometimes do to achieve success.

In Coco, a famous singer Ernesto de la Cruz had a famous saying, “Seize the moment.”

At the beginning of the movie, we think it’s an inspirational reminder to not be afraid to take a chance on success when you have it, in an Eminem Lose Yourself sort of way.

Later in the movie, we come to learn he also means to do unsavory things, if needed, for your success. It turns out de la Cruz murdered his best friend and became famous using the songs he stole from him.

The movie The Founder is about how Ray Kroc built the McDonald’s hamburger chain and slowly stole the famous restaurant’s concept from the McDonald brothers for a pittance.

The McDonald brothers built a successful and innovative single location restaurant in California. Their attempts at expanding their concept had failed. They were better at running a single location than building a muli-unit franchise.

Enter Ray Kroc who discovered successful ways to expand. Some of the changes Kroc made to the concept to make it scalable didn’t sit well with brothers.

So, Kroc found a clever way around their original agreement that allowed him make the changes without the brothers’ approval and cut them out.

In a defining moment in the movie, one of the brothers asks Kroc how he can be such a snake.

Kroc says that what makes him different from the McDonald’s brothers is that if they saw a rival drowning, they’d help him out because they’re good guys.

If Kroc saw a rival drowning, he’d put a garden hose in his mouth because he wants to win that bad.

Similar to Coco’s Ernesto de la Cruz, Kroc provides a real world example of someone willing to “seize the moment.”

Not all success stories are built on such bad behavior, but I think it might be helpful in society to be more clear-eyed about some of those unpleasant choices made to get ahead.

That includes success in business, entertainment, sports and politics.

When we’re not clear-eyed, it makes it easier for tragedies like Lance Armstrong and USA Gymnastics to persist for too long.

Michael Buble on success

I saw Michael Buble on CBS Sunday Morning a few weeks ago.

His vision of how success works fits with mine and Nassim Taleb’s.

He said that he counts himself lucky everyday and that success was 10% talent, 40% hard work and 50% luck.

The interviewer responded, “Luck, really? But, you do have some good pipes.”

Buble responded, “So do the folks on American Idol.”

The interviewer, missed the point, and responded, “But, they don’t have several multi-platinum albums.”

Well, no, they don’t. That’s Buble’s point. Why don’t they? What makes him different from those very talented folks?

I think it is common for people to assume the equation to success is something more like 80% talent, 15% hard work and 5% luck.

I did, too, at one point. I just assumed talent would prevail.

But, I’ve been close enough to some semi-success stories to see that what often takes folks to the next level, isn’t just their talent and hard work prevailing. It takes a little luck.

I also have been close enough to see that success stories often have some unsavory trade-offs and some folks just decide it’s not worth it.

More on that in the next post.

 

 

The 5 And’s

Young goalkeepers often lose confidence when they let a goal in. It doesn’t help that their teammates often blame the goal on them.

To help them regain confidence and teach their teammates that goals against are rarely the sole fault of the keeper, I would explain the 5 And’s.

They would respond, confused, “Five what?”

“Five And’s. Let’s replay what led up to that goal.

Johnny lost the ball because nobody was open for a pass…

AND…

Johnny then dove in to try to win the ball back (poor tackling technique), getting beat easily giving up 20 yards of space…

AND…

The next two defenders, Mike and Jack, didn’t call the attacker, so both stepped in leaving another player on the other team open for a pass (lack of communication)…

AND…

Do you see where I’m going?  The next defender, Billy, took away the middle, instead of the line (basic defensive tactic to force the other team’s ball movement into traffic), allowing an easy pass down the line to an open winger…

AND…

the outside back, Seth, gave that winger too much time and space to serve a good ball in (not following basic defensive tactic to pressure the winger)…

AND…

The center back, Blaine, left a guy wide open to receive (ball watching) and go 1v1 with the goalie.

There were 5 And’s leading up to that goal. Each AND represents a mistake made by one or more field players.

Great if the keeper makes the save, but don’t expect it to happen every time. 1v1 against the goalie is a high percentage shot. It’s a big goal. The keeper won’t save all those.

So, as we’re learning this game, when the other team gets a scoring chance, ask yourself what you and your teammates could have done differently to prevent that chance.

Good and bad teams make lots of mistakes. The difference is that good teams don’t often make 4-5 mistakes in a row. They usually get it back under control after 1 or 2.

Getting better in soccer as a team means getting better at not letting those 5 AND’s happen.

The 5 And’s also apply to real life. Many bad things (and sometimes good things) result from cascading mistakes.

The sump pump in my neighbor’s house has a battery backup. One night, my neighbor happened to be on vacation AND we had an uncommonly high 5-6 inches of rain AND late on a Saturday night a car hit a power pole taking out power to our subdivision AND our subdivision does not yet have a backup feed for the power company to switch over to while they make repairs AND it took the power company over 13 hours to restore power AND that was long enough to drain the battery on the backup and let the sump well overflow into their basement.

My neighbor came home to soggy carpet and flood damage. Take away any of those AND’s and they probably would have avoided a flooded basement.

 

“No Kicking”: my informal title to Tom Byer’s “Soccer Starts at Home”

Keeping with Tom Byer’s advice, I gave small soccer balls to family members with small children for Christmas with the following instructions:

  • These are for inside use, so you can work with the ball year round no matter what the weather is like outside.
  • No Kicking.

When I said, “No Kicking,” the response from adults and kids was the same, “What? Isn’t that was soccer is?”

Then, as Tom recommends, I showed the kids what that meant. I showed them pullbacks, turns, moving the ball in all directions and playing nutmeg 1v1 to learn how to protect the ball.

The kids started trying to do that stuff.

Time will tell if they keep it up.

I thought I’d report on the response I got from saying “No Kicking.” It got their attention and made them think.

Don Garber on solidarity payments and training comp in soccer

From this State of the MLS address:

“We are not as a country participants in solidarity and training compensation. I think that probably has to change. We have to find a way where if that’s going to happen, how do we at least get compensated for it? I don’t know how we can justify making the kind of investments we’ve been making.”

“I will say our view of this whole area is very different than it was two, three, four or five years ago. I think the product that we’re developing has become some of our most important assets. We need to start figuring out ways to protect it or find ways to get compensated when we can’t sign them.”

That would be great. I think it would be pretty easy to start participating.

But, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’d like the MLS to receive those payments, but not have pay non-MLS clubs in the U.S. That’s probably the current hangup.

He also said:

“We need to become more of a selling league,” he said Friday. “As a person who has been selling this league for nearly 20 years, I’ve always believed you needed to have the players that resonated in your market to be those that could be aspirations for young kids peeking through the fence when they see them training. And we all need to get used to the fact that in the world of global soccer, players get sold.”

That sounds remarkably similar to what Darren Eales, of Atlanta United FC, said over a year ago to the Men in Blazers (emphasis added)

One of the issues it [MLS] has had is its been almost like a little island of its own. It’s almost isolated itself from the rest of the world football.

The point I made to Arthur [Atlanta United FC’s owner], the first time I met him was that every club is a selling club… You got to get used to that. You shouldn’t be frightened of it. This is how it works.

So my vision is that we could take players that were younger, invest in a transfer fee, rather than dead wages on player that was going to be retiring at the end of their contract and use that as a way to bring better talent in.

My view is, if MLS establishes that, you then are going to be able to attract better players, because more players are going to want to come, if they feel it can be a stepping stone.

It’s a virtuous circle. Yes, you’re going to have to be prepared to lose some players. But you’re going to bring better players in and be able to take the transfer fees and reinvest them.

It was easier for me to have that view because I came from outside of it [MLS].

Example of simple brilliance in soccer coaching

I highly recommend that soccer coaches listen to this short 3Four3 podcast for a good example of how to coach an important, and mostly overlooked, skill in soccer: receiving across the body.

As a side note, I’ve used the 3Four3’s versions of the 4v0 and 4v1’s in my practices because they work on more fundamental game concepts than the standard versions.

Here’s just one example:

A standard 4v1 has four kids stand on the corner cones of a square and pass to keep the ball away from the defender in the middle. This trains players to stand like statues in games waiting for the ball to come to them.

In 3Four3’s 4v1, players stand between cones, on the side of the square (instead of on the corner), and move side to side between the cones, to check toward the person with the ball to give a supporting passing angle.

This provides training on three game skills in addition to passing and receiving across the body — moving to support passes, anticipating the next pass and communicating.

All these things improve the team’s speed of play.

My additional 4v0 and 4v1 recommendations

The 4v0 is for when kids aren’t technically ready to receive and pass under pressure of a defender. This is needed when they cannot complete 10 passes consistently, using proper technique, in the 4v1.

Without a defender, however, intensity and focus drop quickly.

One way I’ve found to keep the intensity and focus up in the 4v0 is to have the player with the ball pass to the first person who called for it.

This creates a competition between the two passing options, to see who can call for it first, and they quickly learn the sooner they call for it the better — even before the ball gets to the receiver.

So, this automatically teaches anticipation and communication. It also helps the passer start evaluating options before receiving the ball, instead of waiting to decide after getting it.

Giving the player with the ball a simple decision to make helps things, too. Without that, he or she too often overthinks their next pass, which slows ball movement, and reduces intensity.

By overthinking, I mean that they consider way too much. I can see the wheels turning when they’re deciding who to pass to. It can range from ‘what fancy trick am I going to do to show off’, ‘who’s my best friend right now’ or ‘she dissed me in the last drill, so I’m not passing the ball to her.’

Giving them the simple decision framework cuts out this nonsense.

Another way to motivate players is to let the players who are ready for the 4v1 play that and keep the players who are not ready in the 4v0. Let them know that they earn their way into the 4v1 by demonstrating they have the basics of the 4v0 down pat.

When they see some of their friends make it into the 4v1, they’ll want to be there, too. So, they will work harder in practice and at home to get better.