On Mushrooms, Cheese, Management And Marketing

Volume 139, No. 26, December 19, 2014

Much of my early working life was spent wondering about the difference between what management thinks and says about itself, and the reality of the places where I was working. If you listen to management people, you would think that long ago we found the solutions to all the problems, that everybody’s practicing them, and knows what to do, and everything is going great. But if you asked the people working in those companies, when no one in power is listening, like by the water cooler, they would tell you the place was a madhouse, and they were constantly afraid of losing their jobs.

So when I read about these management methods, ranging from six Sigma to lean, to managerial or operational and/or financial management, I’m left scratching my head. And, when I read the stuff that comes out of a standard Masters in business administration course, I’m left in awe at the gap between what is presented so authoritatively on paper, and the much messier reality where the work is done. In the real world, what I see mostly is some variation or other of the Mushroom School of Management:
•Keep ‘em in the dark
•cover them with crap,
•and scream at them to grow!
Just ‘cause everybody says it’s so, don’t mean it ‘aint

Small to medium businesses, where I have spent most of my time, are run by people who learned to manage based on one of the five following tried and true, popular management training methods:
1. The “it’s what my family did” school of management training
2. “It’s all I’ve ever seen” school of management training
3. “I just copied what the first people who trained me did” school of management training
4. “I do what I read in a book because it sounded cool to me” school of management training
5. And finally, “I figured it out once a long time ago, as best I could, and since it seemed to work then, I just keep doing it” school of management training, aka Shooting From the Hip school
Shooting from the Hip mostly misses the target and can kill innocent bystanders.
And when you stop for a second, and look at it, all humor aside, doesn’t it seem a little risky? I mean, if you run a small or medium business your patrimony and that of members of your family and your close friends are on the line, so you probably want to find a little more scientific, effective, and a little less whacky method to learn by.
Oh, and I forgot the, “I found a bunch people who think the way I do, so I use them to reinforce what I’m already doing” school of management.

The Battle for the Soul of American Business
There’s a great book called “Car Guys vs. Bean Counters, The Battle for the Soul of American Business.” By Bob Lutz, formerly of GM. It is a refreshing read. Lutz is the one who accuses business schools of graduating generations of alternative scenario loving, spreadsheet addicted idiot savants. His point is well taken. The bean counters are important, but they should work at service to the people who love the product, and the industry and the customers. Yes, love!

Just because no one really understands what the point is with a SWOT, doesn’t mean it is right! Kindly, but firmly put accounting back in its cage!

The same kind of slosh happens with marketing. Years ago my doctor confided in me that many times they have no idea what is making you sick, particularly in the realm of flu/cold/etc. So they try something, if it works, they look like they know what they are doing, but many times it doesn’t so they try something else until it works. And many of those times it is the placebo effect, another sweet way of nature fixes it on her own.

Think about it. What we say, and expect when it is our own brand, is very different that what we do with other peoples brands.

Despite all the hoopla about Social Proof, and Relationship building, the truth is Consumers are indifferent to us, in other words, THEY DON’T CARE...you don’t either. If I write a boring article or one that you aren’t interested in, you will stop reading it. If you can buy something for your company cheaper online, you will, even knowing that you may be contributing to your neighbor’s job loss and the death of downtown. All of us have embraced cheaply made Chinese manufactured goods, even those out saving the Whales.

One client, who was closing a store that had not worked, was approached by what he thought was one of his most loyal customers. She was surprised to see he was closing the store, and said “Darn, if I had known earlier I could have gotten even a bigger discount.” It’s not that we are bad, it’s that we are indifferent to those things that we do not see to be of immediate value to our life in that moment. So the cheese factory can lament about the customer who wants a discount, then turn around and demand the same thing from their supplier, or try and get some free advantage.

Outside In not Inside Out
Facts are facts. Most people don’t go to websites seeking relationships, they go looking for discounts: forget terms like engagement, relationships, audience, social proof. Marketing is the ability to LOOK OUTSIDE IN, NOT INSIDE OUT.

Nobody cares and neither do you (for other people’s brands) So, in the words of a great marketing guru: “A mediocre marketing plan followed consistently is better than a brilliant one in spurts.”

If you add up the time and effort spent seeking online relationships, and compare it to the sales you get directly from them, online, is it worth it? That is the question, along with, how can I make my product something people see as to their advantage in the moment. I am willing to bet that despite all the marketing brouhaha, the fact that goat cheese makers starting putting their cheese in packages that people could open easily without ruining the cheese, had every bit as much to do with the explosive growth.

Think about it! DS

Dan Strongin runs a training and consulting company focused on delivering affordable online solutions to everyday business problems, including his udemy course: Understand Your Business, Earn More Money. Dan can be reached via email at dan@danstrongin.com or by phone at (408) 512-1086, or you can visit and blog or get discounts on his courses on his site: http://www.managenaturally.com.

Dan Strongin encourages your comments regarding this column. Comments can be made anonymously to columnists@cheesereporter.com.


Other Strongin Articles written for Cheese Reporter

Don’t Waste Your Time With Big Data
dot LaClare Farms
dot Collaborationists in our Industry!
Risk Management vs. Risk Prevention
dot Jack Booted Cheese Thugs
dot Towards a Safer Food Supply
dot Lies, Damned Lies and Dairy Safety: How Poorly Applied Statistics Could Lead to the Worse Public Policy
dot Is Dairy Safe Is The Wrong Question, Part 1
dot Not All Data Is Information
dot Start From Where You Are
dot Learning About Your Customer
dot The Vision Thing
dot Customer Service? NOT!
dot Collaboration: The Road To A Better Future
dot Resolution
dot Water

dot In Memoriam: Ignazio Vella 1928-2011
dot Of Cheese, Seals, And Deming
dot In Their Own Words: Lettie Kilmoyer
dot In Their Own Words: Fritz Maytag
dot In Their Own Words: Paula Lambert
dot Show Me the Money: Cost Accounting
dot Cost Accounting Chokes, Part 2: Inventory

dot Cost Accounting Is Choking Your Business, Part 1
dot It Ain’t Over ‘til It’s Over
dot Raw Reason
dot A Story For The Holiday Season, Part II
dot A Story For The Holiday Season
dot Truth In Labeling
dot This Too Shall Pass or "What were we thinking?"
dot Marketing Language That Resonates
dot When Will We Ever Learn?
dot Cheese Competitions In The Context Of Marketing

dot Economy
dot Even The Best Laid Plans Go Astray
dot Root Causes: Communication
dot Partners
dot Diamond Cutting:
It's What You Don't Know That Can Hurt You
dot Integrity and Ethics
dot Pricing:  The Perceived Value
Designing the Effective Sell Sheet
Common Sense
It All Begins in The Mouth
Of Cars...

The Gathering Storm
As Our Industry Evolves, So Should Our Terminology:

Other Cheese Reporter Guest Columnists
Visit John Umhoefer
Visit Neville McNaughton

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