Everyone embraces failure - this is why

(Cross-posted from LinkedIn. Please connect there to get more like this.)

In recent times wannabe contrarians have embraced their love of failure – often pointing to entrepreneurs who have failed spectacularly, learned their lessons and then went on to great success. JK Rowling may have started it all with her TED talk in 2008, and even the psychologists agree.

It is not so much that failure is a ‘good’ thing.

The simple truth of the matter is that it often does not matter what we do as much as it matters that we do something. Maybe a better title to this piece would have been “The benefit of doing something”.

The sub text is that anything is better than nothing – even if it leads to failure.

There are a few arguments to support this contention:

1.      Law of Unintended Consequences.

2.      Complexity of Achieving Behaviour Change (statement of the bleeding obvious).

3.      Predictable Irrationality of human decision-making.

Summarising all of the above leads to the inevitable conclusion that, for practical intents and purposes, it is near impossible design and deliver a human intervention that involves many people in order to achieve a predetermined outcome.

This is illustrated very clearly with the ‘Hawthorn Effect’:

The experiments took place at Western Electric's factory at Hawthorne, a suburb of Chicago, in the late 1920s and early 1930s. They were conducted for the most part under the supervision of Elton Mayo, an Australian-born sociologist who eventually became a professor of industrial research at Harvard.

The original purpose of the experiments was to study the effects of physical conditions on productivity. Two groups of workers in the Hawthorne factory were used as guinea pigs. One day the lighting in the work area for one group was improved dramatically while the other group's lighting remained unchanged. The researchers were surprised to find that the productivity of the more highly illuminated workers increased much more than that of the control group.

The employees' working conditions were changed in other ways too (their working hours, rest breaks and so on), and in all cases their productivity improved when a change was made. Indeed, their productivity even improved when the lights were dimmed again. By the time everything had been returned to the way it was before the changes had begun, productivity at the factory was at its highest level. Absenteeism had plummeted.

The experimenters concluded that it was not the changes in physical conditions that were affecting the workers' productivity. Rather, it was the fact that someone was actually concerned about their workplace, and the opportunities this gave them to discuss changes before they took place. (Extracted from The Economist – my emphasis)


For example, consider the following ‘failures’:

  • You may want to run an awareness campaign in your company to increase safety awareness – but it results in a rise in complaints about unsafe working conditions.
  • You have a serious talk with your team about discipline and putting in the hours, attending meetings and being on time. Instead of them being negative and feel reprimanded as you feared, they get to clear the air - resulting in positive climate change in the office.
  • Giving people performance bonuses but instead of it being motivating, it raises the sense of entitlement.
  • During an office relocation when everybody had to spend a fair amount of time on ‘housekeeping’ matters and services were disrupted, sales actually increased.

There simply is no accounting for human behaviour. When put under stress some people rise to the occasion and others wilt. When lavished with attention, some avoid the scrutiny and others feel more engaged.

The same logic can be extended to initiatives like:

  • A re-branding exercise
  • A corporate re-structure
  • A merger
  • Decentralising the procurement function

Most readers will be well aware of how corporate warriors will jump through hoops creating business cases, project maps, task forces and the like to develop and implement these solutions.

And then if you are lucky enough to survive the round of retrenchments, a few years on you will find that the re-structure must be undone, and that the acquisition must be sold and the procurement is better off being centralised again.

It may seem like the epitome of bureaucratic waste to do and then undo the same initiatives in a never-ending oscillation.

The simple answer is that there is no right answer to any one of those business/ operations/ management conundrums. Whether a certain function is centralised or decentralised does not matter. Whether the company is going through a ‘specialisation’ stage or a ‘diversification’ stage is just the strategy cycle.

What matters is this: the company is doing something; anything really, as the workers in the Hawthorne factories taught us. Any project will do. Any initiative will energise. Any strategy will do the job of making us feel we are working towards something.

Along the way the project will be more or less successful, but that matters nought, since there was no way to predict the outcome of a complex system anyway. All that matters that we are doing something, constantly engaging with our work and the people we work with.

A little bit of luck will determine whether there are more little wins or little losses adding up to success or failure in the long run.

But that we will not admit to each other. Just delude ourselves that we are in charge and prepare the business case accordingly.

Looking for success in the wrong place

Did you know …

  • Coca-Cola began as a pharmaceutical product.
  • Tiffany & Co., the fancy jewellery store company, started life as a stationery store.
  • Raytheon, which made the first missile guidance system, was a refrigerator maker.
  • Nokia, who used to be the top mobile phone maker, began as a paper mill.
  • DuPont, now famous for Teflon non-stick cooking pans, Corian countertops and Kevlar started out as an explosives company.
  • Avon, the cosmetics company, started out in door-to-door book sales.

There must be some lesson in that.

FOR THE SME: If things don’t work out as planned, there is always a plan B.

FOR THE ENTREPRENEUR: Launch quickly, iterate rapidly and pivot to a more viable business model.

FOR THE CONSULTANT: With good strategic planning, a company can be steered in the right direction.

FOR THE MANAGER: Even with the best resources at their disposal (including research) anyone can screw it up.

Maybe I am wired different, but when I look at these cases, I learn completely different lessons:

For each example listed here, there are tens of thousands of companies who stuck to their knitting and failed, and just as many examples of companies who stuck to their core and succeeded.

I post these thoughts to share with you dear reader ONE very important truism:

It is extremely dangerous to rely on one example of someone who ‘has done it’, one example of a company that did things ‘a certain way’ – or any ONE explanation of why something succeeded.

Go into your nearest Dymocks and look at the shelves full of books by authors on the topic of success. Everyone has a recipe.

One guy will tell you to ‘Be a Maverick’ (ex Pepsi), one guy will tell you to ‘Be Paranoid’ (ex Intel) and one guy will tell you to follow ‘these 7 habits’; not to mention a book a year by Richard Branson telling you to ‘standout from the crowd’.

I could go on, but you catch my drift.

The same goes for (and especially so) for business people who have made a success of something and then offer advice about that.


  • They can tell you what they THINK has made it work for them – and they may be wrong.
  • They can only tell you what they think has made it work for THEM – and it won’t work for anyone else.

The internet is rife with examples of entrepreneurs who made it big, who sold out and then write the books and goes on the speaking circuit. I challenge you to name the number of entrepreneurs who have made a similar success twice, and I am confident that in the world there will only be handful. How many CEOs have backed up their successful tenure at one company with an equally successful tenure at another? Just a handful in the world.

This may be the most pervasive success myth ever: if you want to be successful, learn from the successful.

  • Other people’s success is not your success – copying their ‘approach’ at best a starting point.
  • There is no ‘secret’ – the recipe for a successful business is well-known.

This seems counter-intuitive, right? It SHOULD work.

But it does not. So let’s turn to that trusty terrain of the sporting analogy.



The most successful coaches are (extremely) rarely the star players of yesteryear. I have looked at a range of sports, but for this example I will use the Australian sport called Rugby League. The only very successful coach that was also a bona fide star of their era is Mal Meninga of the Queensland State of Origin team. (I am sure you can argue about the star power and coaching success of say Ricky Stuart, but the fact that it is subject to argument already disqualifies him.) Meninga on the other hand has won 7 series in a row – at the highest level and in his playing career he was the National Captain and had the most caps of any player and made the Australian team of the century.  (A US equivalent might Yogi Berra of Baseball fame.)

Of the 100s of coaches, there is one that qualifies clearly. Even then his coaching credentials can be questioned because it just so happens that his tenure coincided with having the best group of players of this generation playing for his team at the same time. But let’s not get petty.

Despite this dismal track record of star players to perform as coaches, clubs continue to offer them first dibs on plum coaching gigs.

By the same token, the coaches who have impressive track records may have played the game, may even have been good players, but often weren’t stars of their teams.

(Of course, being an average player, does not mean you will be a great coach either!)

To stretch the analogy even further.

When a coach is successful, other coaches adopt their strategies, which eventually nullifies that particular strategy because everyone uses the same strategy and they learn how to play against it week in and week out.

The really successful coach never copies another successful coach, they work on building a game plan that is unique and gives his team a competitive advantage.

From this analogy, I want to emphasise two things.

  1. What made you successful as player, does not make you successful as coach.
  2. What makes one coach successful is not worth copying, because in the long run a successful coach needs to carve his own strategy that suits your personal preferences and your resources.

Every successful outcome is the product of a unique set of circumstances, a range of complex processes and countless, dynamic human interactions.

To attempt to seek success by copying someone else a poor strategy, and it is even worse investment of time to read about it.

Success comes from doing your own shit. Maybe.

The recipe for failing industries threatened by online

... is not what you think

I have had an A-HA moment…



The reason why so many industries/ professions are in trouble is not because of changing technology. The industries/professions that are struggling to reinvent themselves are the ones that were structured to achieve profit and prominence AGAINST human nature.

All that has happened now is that technology has ENABLED consumers/users to wrestle back the power and force the change in that industry/profession to REVERT to the natural state.

In practice what happened is that industries built business models where the source of revenue was separated from the actual value sought by the consumer.

Let’s consider three examples:

1. Journalism/ Newspapers: everything free online

People want to know what they want to know. People don’t like to be bullshitted. People don’t want to be used and treated as eyeballs.

Newspapers have traditionally used journalism (relevant, true) to attract, but made their money by exposing the reader to other things where they (the industry) can make money.

The revenue source has no relationship with the consumer value.

People still want all those things like truth, information etc. And now they can get it mostly directly from each other. Technology allows them to curate and filter based on what they have always wanted.

The original opportunity for this sector remains in real journalism that is worth paying for. (The economics may be different, but that is the only sustainable response to the fundamental human need.)

2. Education: access to information and knowledge universal and free

Dropping out of college has become a badge of honour amongst entrepreneurs.

Academic institutions are considered out of date and most curricula are both irrelevant to the context of the current market, and irrelevant to the learner’s specific needs.

People can now find online all information they need to do anything and even better, someone who will help them and train them often for free or for a fraction of university costs. People will learn what they need to and may be motivated by an intrinsic desire or by force of circumstance and don’t typically see the value of being taught within an institution.

People want to learn what they are interested in learning when they want to do so, AND the test of relevance and competence is the real world, not a classroom quiz or exam.

Most people will recognise that familiar refrain: I went to university to get a piece of paper. What they wanted was the ‘accreditation’ or certification of their ability, not lecture hours.

The revenue source has no relationship with the consumer value.

Universities are losing their monopoly gradually at present, but in 10 or so years they will start approaching a tipping point towards complete oblivion – unless they can pivot.

Some professions (law/medicine etc.) are artificially maintaining a closed shop with the assistance of governments, as are the governments themselves by mandating secondary education within their system. Not for long.

The original opportunity for this sector remains in objective assessment of knowledge and skills.

Marketing/ Retail: unlimited choice, instant determination of true value

This profession has thrived in the past because it controlled so many elements of the offer that it dictated all terms in the relationship with the consumer. This has led to a sales orientation. Even Theodore Levitt’s seminal insight in 1963 did not change that because the so-called marketing orientation was simply a re-phrasing of the activities that existed in order to sell more stuff.

Consumers don’t want to be sold to.

They don’t want you to sell them by ‘serving’ them. They don’t want you to sell them with a USP.

ANYTHING you do that will help you sell stuff has always been resented, but now technology has provided them with an alternative that is easy, cheap and powerful.

The remaining opportunity for this sector remains in finding ways to help the consumer to buy.

What consumers/users want is to buy stuff that,,.

Your challenge is to complete that sentence with YOUR product/service.

It is a completely different mindset to selling stuff. You must become a meaningful part of the customers’ lives without ending up like the annoying uncle at the family BBQ who wants to sell insurance to everyone.

The recipe for any industry being challenged by the transformative effects of online/ e-commerce and the connected world is pretty simple.

Find out what it is that consumers really want (and wanted all along) and attach value to that and charge for that value fairly.

Oh, wait. That isn't a recipe. It is just marketing.

Dennis @ Ganador

Customer Acquisition, Retention & Engagement by turning your Organisational IP into Marketing IQ.

Do you have any idea how crooked our thinking really is?

The silver bullet you are searching for…

... does not exist.



When you are a client you demand an answer, if you are a manager you demand solutions, not problems. When you are a consultant, you feel compelled to come up with an answer. When you are a ‘guru’, you want to be first to the summit of Crap Mountain – like content marketing at the moment.

Strangely enough, few people understand what they demand, nor how one is supposed to arrive at those ‘answers’.

The best thinker about risk – bar none – is NN Taleb. One of his major insights about decision-making was triggered by this observation by Daniel Kahneman, the grandfather of Behavioural Economics.

Kahneman and Miller wrote in 1986:

A spectator at a weight lifting event, for example, will find it easier to imagine the same athlete lifting a different weight than to keep the achievement constant and vary the athlete's physique.

This observation basically states that bias is introduced into our thinking because the variable of choice is not random. In this example we can imagine the athlete lifting a different weight, but we don’t easily imagine a different physique; whereas both of those variable could materially influence the final outcome of the weight being lifted or not.

This triggered him to think about this in the context of risk (being Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering, New York University School of Engineering) and came to the conclusion that, in REALITY (not in laboratories) there are many random variables and they are all subject to variation.

It seems very obvious to say this, but Taleb realised that; increasing the number of random variables compounds the number of counterfactuals and causes more extremes.

And of course we all know that reality is comprised of multiple variables, so PREDICTING an outcome in reality is really just a lottery.

The practical outcome of this phenomenon are:

  • We really don’t THINK straight as we think we do. (Because of an inherent bias in our thinking process, we vastly under-estimate the variability of multiple variables, with catastrophic consequences. Taleb.)
  • We foolishly cling to the notion that we can influence the universe and things happens because of us. (Price: stating the bleeding obvious.)
  • We feel compelled to find the answers by applying rigorous rational thinking and research.

If we can’t understand our own biases, RESEARCH would be a good way to overcome the problem, right? Not so much.

Taleb remarked that ‘scientists use statistical methods blindly and mechanistically, like cooking recipes (and) tend to make the mistake when consciously comparing two variables.

This is very common in research and in fact so much so that I can safely say that most research is not worth the paper it is written on. I wrote that Neuroscience is not all it is cracked up to be (and promptly got attacked by converted zealots.) Nieuwenhuis et al. in 2011 found that 50% of neuroscience papers (peer-reviewed in "prestigious journals") that compared variables got it wrong.  (I have warned about being seduced by statistics too.)

We can’t rely on research to save us from sloppy thinking.

The question is then what we CAN do about this because we have a life to love and a business to run?

A good start would be to study and understand probability theory properly so that you can truly appreciate (for example) properties of the joint distribution of tails.

But the REALITY is that most of us won’t be doing that, so here are some simple alternatives instead:

  1. Consciously avoid the lure of simple extrapolation. (Especially when it is so easy to do with spreadsheets.)
  2. Consciously stop and anticipate worst case scenarios. (They are more likely than you want to think.)
  3. Encourage a culture of robust questioning. (Particularly those corporate mavericks who go against the grain and sometimes seem difficult.)
  4. Actively guard against people using ‘research’ as a reason to do or not do stuff. (Apple did OK without ever relying on research.)

You must appreciate that ANY of the above could easily be abused and become a reason for never doing anything and we should be vigilant about that.

But more than anything, stop being seduced by the promise of a silver bullet.

Ganador: Acquire and Retain Clients in the retail supply chain.


If you sell to retailers this is for you


Although we do a lot of work with retailers, we usually do it FOR the supplier/ franchisor, landlord etc.

We often work with the supplier (et al) about how to work more effectively with retailers to build mutually beneficial relationships.

I have summarised some of the messages we give in that instance in a checklist - which you can DOWNLOAD FOR FREE.

(It is not the complete thing, but it will be a great start if you want to use it to review and compare how you currently do things in your company.)

(C) 2014 ganador.com.au

(C) 2014 ganador.com.au

The missing ingredient in this checklist is of course the SKILLS required to push the right buttons at the right stages of the conversation. But the purpose of this post is not to train representative, but to give them a framework to compare & evaluate their own approach.

It is not so much that there is ONE right approach, but rather that the approach you DO have be based on a series of rational decisions, rather than an laissez faire 'interaction' that serves very little purpose beyond ticking the box that you have actually visited a client.



Why your loyalty program sucks, and what you should do instead

The guys at McKinsey has produced a short slide deck to explain some of the issues with loyalty.

I will summarise my (relatively knowledgeable) take on loyalty programs that fail as follows:

Loyalty is treated as something separate from the rest of the customer experience).

If you want loyalty succeed, then it must be treated as ONE PART of the and engagement cycle.

Of course as you can expect, here at Ganador we have sourced the PERFECT solution through a partnership with a leading technology provider. (One that GETS loyalty - AND the rest of the process.)

In fact I can safely say it is the only product that does what it does the way it does it.

For it to work you need a critical mass of customers. So realistically it is suited to only larger companies, associations, landlords, and franchisors etc.

Before you call me for a (no-obligation) demo - know that you will want to sign up. The good news is that there is no capex involved for you to own your own, white-label, fully integrated solution and the monthly cost could be as low as 50 bucks...


Customer Education is the new marketing


I like to think we are innovative and our offer is slightly ahead of the curve. That causes difficulties sometimes, because instead of simply having to explain the benefits of what we do, we also have to explain what it we do.

One of the latest iterations of marketing is ‘content marketing’.  I am not a big fan – and I have already said that.

Marketing as a professional discipline struggles because its practitioners are constantly jumping on the next band wagon, proclaiming “this is the big thing”. Social media – and a specific range of platforms come to mind and of course then there is the other buzz word – Big Data.

(I read somewhere that Big Data is like Teenage Sex – everyone thinks everyone else is doing it and therefore claim they are doing it, but the reality is there is much groping in the dark and not much else.)

By labelling what we do as “Customer Education” and claiming that it is the new marketing, I run the risk that the same fate will befall it; a slow, agonising death until all that remains are a few abandoned websites in the Google graveyard.

The current crop of young marketers who are ‘discovering’ social mistakenly believe that they have discovered something amazingly unique about consumers. People are social. It doesn’t take more than a moment’s reflection to realise that humans have ALWAYS been social.

The only thing that has changed is that (1) it is easier for people to use technology to express their social nature and (b) the social dimension of decision-making has shifted power to the consumer because brands are no longer custodians of the information needed to make decisions.

By the same token, marketing has always been about customer education.

Text book purpose of advertising is for instance to:

  • Inform
  • Persuade
  • Remind

You could simply re-read those aims and easily categorise them as ‘educational’ could you not?

When a parent ‘reminds’ a recalcitrant teenager to clean their room, that is surely a form of education?

When a manufacturer includes a user manual in their packaging, they are attempting to educate the customer.

The reason I believe content marketing is a dead end (in addition to those already enumerated) is that content marketing (as it is practised today) is biased towards entertainment – as can be seen from the unrealistic and counter-productive focus on creating something viral.

Content can be entertaining and it can be educational. It can even be both at the same time. But pure entertainment is not – in our experience - a viable, effective and sustainable marketing strategy unless your product/service is an entertainment product (like XBOX).

By definition someone who wants to be ‘entertained’ always wants to move on to the next thing… which goes against the grain of the organisational objective of creating loyal and repeat customers.

At best, content marketing is part of your digital marketing strategy which is part of your overall marketing strategy.

Customer education is a nobler endeavour.

Like any relationship, “getting to know each other” is a crucial part of the relationship. When you really know and understand each other, the relationship has the opportunity to attain longevity. 

The 7 things successful retailers have in common


I am in the final stages of wrapping a project for retail client. The outcome was surprising in many ways.

It was the first time we had worked together. His business can be classified as a mega retailer, albeit with one store only it is a significant business.

After some discussion, my proposal was accepted and I got to work.

On the day I had to report back for the first time, I had to inform the client that I was knock a substantial chunk from bill and complete the project early.

The reason is not because I don’t like making money.

The reason is because he is so good at making money out of his retail business, that I could add relatively value and couldn’t justify my full fee.

Whilst there are probably a dozen or so actions that we can recommend, the truth is that these are quite minor and is really just about the final 1%. (On a big business that is a meaningful number, but nevertheless not the impact I had anticipated I might make.)

I have compiled a list of ways in which this retailer is different to the ones I usually meet. (And I have met thousands and worked with hundreds.)

Of course the store functions well operationally. (Clean, well merchandised, well-trained staff.) Those all the things I identified last week – and it goes without saying.

The question is: why does this particular person succeed at making those fundamentals happen when so many others don’t? I sought to identify the reasons BEHIND the successes achieved – the root causes so to speak.



  1. He is an entrepreneur – not a small businessman. (I won’t labour the point here, but it is a different mentality altogether.)
  2. He has empowered his staff fully (trained them well of course) and they truly KNOW and OWN their numbers – right down to GP% for sub-categories.
  3. He is a ‘nice guy’ – in the positive, ethical sense – and gets along with staff. I am confident that I could charge him 100% of my quote and he would honour it – even if scope turned out to be somewhat less than anticipated.
  4. While he is on-site a lot and stays in touch with the minutiae; even then he focuses on working on the business. (He has built great systems that fully integrate across all channels, it is up to date and produces reliable numbers that allows him to keep his hand on the tiller AND to make strategic decisions.)
  5. He invests (substantially – more than $15K per annum) in his own personal development and growth.
  6. He is willing to constantly, proactively seek out professional expertise and respond to it appropriately – before it is too late in a constant push to ensure that the business is fine-tuned.
  7. He invests and reinvests constantly in the business and the premises.

You may well argue that in a successful multi-million dollar business he can ‘afford’ to do these things – but I also now know that this has not always been the case.

What successful retail entrepreneurs understand above all else is that you can’t start doing these things ONCE you become successful, but that you have to do them IN ORDER to become successful.

GANADOR: Customer Acquisition, Retention and Engagement

What can you learn from boiling water?

It may seem like a silly question, right?

I guess you know that it is at 212°F or 99.98°C (lets’ call it 100, OK – and we agree this is at sea level?)

It takes a certain amount of time and energy to get water to boil.

How hard is it (what does it take) to get water to or 99°C or 211°F?

Very close to the same amount of effort, energy and time than it does to get it to boiling point.

BUT – if it doesn’t boil it doesn’t boil.

If it does not boil it does change. You have warm water, not boiling water.

It won’t become steam.

It does not transform.

All that effort and energy for nothing.

It is the same for your business. It may only need another 1 degree increase in temperature to be transformed.

Just one.


(HT to Wayne Mullins for the idea of this post.)

Beware the force of entropy

In to 1865, Rudolf Clausius coined the term "entropy" and stated that the entropy of the universe tends to a maximum. This idea is now known as the second law of thermodynamics and a measure of the "disorder" of the physical system.

Consider the behaviour of gas in a closed box. If you start with all the gas molecules in a corner of the box, the gas molecules will fill the box, increasing the entropy (tending to ‘chaos’ or disorder.)

Interestingly it never goes the other way: if the gas molecules fill the box, we will never see them spontaneously collect into one corner. (This one-way behaviour of matter is called the "arrow of time and is related to notion of ‘the arrow of time’ which I wrote about here.)

This is not just a phenomenon and it is not just a theory – this is one of the LAWS of the universe. (If you are interested in that sort of thing, you will know that this Law is not reconcilable with the idea of the spontaneous creation of the universe.)

Since the Second Law of Thermodynamics (systems tend towards chaos) is a universal law, then it also applies to all systems – including the system of your company.

As organisations grow (older and bigger) the natural law is that it will tend to towards disorder (entropy).

General observation of organisations and their natural lifecycles would tend to support that.

Of course your survival and your prosperity therefore depends on how well you can delay (fight) that natural tendency.

The tools to achieve this are:

  • Focus
  • Commitment
  • Discipline
  • Systems

Passion, energy, motivation et al may be the common prescription by ‘success gurus’, but the reality seems to be more mundane than that. If you searched online for ‘why following your passion is bad advice’, and you will find several arguments for and against.

In fact, MOTIVATION refers to internal (emotive) states whereas PASSION AND ENERGY reflect actions (behaviours). Emotions and feelings wax and wane, whereas action is something that can happen independently from emotions. Any entrepreneur will be able to relate stories of how they rocked up for work despite feeling miserable.

The only way to postpone entropy is to work at it. NO matter how you feel.



Something you can learn from Chumpy Pullin and his Sochi adventure


Let’s face it there are no rags to riches stories in winter sports. There is no kid from the Bronx that made it to the NBA. There is no Mexican street kid who goes on to become the world heavyweight boxing champion.

These sportspeople are typically people of privilege. Living in cold climates takes money. Living in hot climates and visiting the snow regularly takes money.

I know this because I grew up poor and skiing holidays were never on the radar.

My son loves snowboarding and het gets a season pass every year. So we watch the Sochi broadcast. And I find myself waiting up to see how Chumpy goes.

SO, why do I care about Chumpy Pullin and his Sochi dreams? He has his own website, He is healthy and attractive has a beautiful girlfriend – presumably a bit of cash and a lifestyle to match.

Source: heraldsun.com.au

Source: heraldsun.com.au

Why do I care about a person of privilege notching up yet another privilege?

The answer is very simple: LIKABILITY

I have written about how one becomes liked. It is CORE to the successful sales process. People will overlook all kinds of other issues if you are likable.

Alex (Chumpy) comes across like a nice guy – not a spoilt rich kid. I don’t know what he is really like, but the impression he gives is one of likability and for that reason I am prepared to be interested in his fortunes and hi successes and failures.

This is an attribute worth emulating by all people who are striving for success. It may sound simplistic, but trust me if I say there is good neuroscience behind this phenomenon.

And the best news is that it can be learned.

What is your excuse?


A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, "How do I know you won't sting me?" The scorpion

says, "Because if I do, I will die too."

The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown, but has just enough time to gasp "Why?"

Replies the scorpion: "It’s my nature..."

Aesop’s fable about the Scorpion and the Frog is particularly instructive:

I often just sit down and think. I think about things. It is in my nature. (Some of you may be able to find the time to do the same.) Some things I tried in my business worked better than I thought and others didn’t work out at all.

But the one thing I can rest assured about is that my failures have rarely been because I have been blind to my own nature. I may have been stupid, inexperienced or under-capitalised or over-confident; but being introspective and self-aware, I have avoided the failures of hubris caused by being blind to your faults.

There are extremely practical and all to real examples of this.

To quote myself from an article written for National Newsagent magazine to encourage newsagents to change their business model:

One of the biggest challenges you must overcome is the fact that many of us see ourselves as NEWSAGENTS. It is part of our identity and it is part of our public persona and even our ‘place’ in the town hierarchy and it has a certain status.

You may not see yourself as a convenience store owner or a gift shop owner and refuse to acknowledge the reality.

That is a pity because <strong>we are all entrepreneurs</strong> and what we should be doing is responding to the market opportunity instead of floating along on the seas of change.

Failure is OK. Most reasons for failure are acceptable, but a few aren't. First among those is being blind to yourself.

The SKILL all successful people have

#thinkdifferent --

There are many people who write about the attributes of successful people. And they may even write about the actions of successful people. But what is the particular skill that a successful person has that may explain their success?

A: The ability to balance two opposing forces.

That is the ability to handle the tension between two opposite forces in such a way that he or she gets the benefit from both (opposing) forces.

To be a successful sales person:

You must be able to genuinely, empathetically listen to and be interested in the prospect’s problems and yet be motivated and focused on getting your solution adopted and your KPIs met.

To be a successful leader:

Leaders have warmth and natural empathy that makes people feel they are understood but they are also strong and resolute and unwavering in their beliefs.

To be a successful entrepreneur:

Be truly committed to something that is completely unproven. This requires balancing the Doubt that defines the opportunity (inherent in breaking new ground) with the Faith to execute diligently and repeatedly believing it will work.

Great parents find the sweet spot between unconditional love and strong guidance.

I could go on…

But the question that intrigues most is why some people can acquire that skill and others not.?

This particular skill is not a physical one, so there are no innate requirements like hand-eye coordination or fast-twitch fibers.

Yet some people acquire and some people don’t.

In my view it boils down to a certain way of thinking. And by this I definitely DO NOT mean ‘positive thinking’. (In fact relentless positive thinking is bound to be as problematic and ineffectual as continuous negative thinking.)

The mindset I am referring to is a strong intellectual commitment to avoid binary thinking. Some people seem to be more easily able to avoid either/or thinking and others struggle a bit more. It may relate to a need to make sense of the world in convenient little boxes, but the reality is invariably different.

And I really mean invariably.

If you are a Christian/ believer, then God is the only ultimate truth (by definition). If you are a materialist there are no absolute truths. For practical purposes – at the human level in our reality here on earth, one can therefore safely say that for every argument to act one way, there will be a powerful (if not equal) argument to act the exact opposite way.

The outcome of this particular reality is that humans make choices to pursue a particular course of action and then ‘battle’ with the implementation because there unintended consequences. But in fact those unintended consequences could easily have been foreseen if one simply had the inclination to objectively consider the opposite course of action.

The knack (skill) to do so is something that can be learned. It does not take any particular set of ‘smarts’.

In the next post we will apply this skill to a big social problem and explore how that may apply in business. (And even talk about Schapelle Corby.)

80% of success is about this


When you are a representative with something to sell to another person who is representing an organisation you are engaged in B2B sales. Whilst both parties are people (allegedly) the buyer is not a consumer. The psychology of the process may have some similarities but the processes and the environments are very different.

Unlike with Retail Selling (to the consumer) I don’t have any particular qualifications in this space, but I do have the experience of doing it. And being who I am, I constantly learn by following other pundits in this space and in that process I discovered some interesting statistics.

We are familiar with the notion a funnel, so I have created this graphic to illustrate funnelmental (geddit?) tension that exists between the behaviours of sales people and the behaviours of the buyers.

Perseverance Stats.PNG

The statistics are quite rubbery – in fact I have no doubt they are wrong. I cannot trace an original source – just people quoting people who quote people. However I firmly believe the general principle conveyed in these numbers holds true.

It really is nothing more than the Pareto Principle: That is, 80% of the sales come to the 20% who persevere. (The quoted statistics would suggest it is more like 95:5)

Breaking this down like this illustrates the point dramatically. Now you, as a representative, can ask yourself specifically how many follow-ups you execute?

I too am guilty of quitting after a couple initial attempts. I fall back on the blog to ‘stay in touch’. But that is an excuse because I know the blog is just a grain of sand on the internet beach.

Entrepreneur magazine has an article on how Jerry Seinfeld manages to produce so much, high quality comedy consistently. They relate the story of the advice Seinfeld gave to an aspiring comedian:

He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.

"After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain."

You'll notice that Seinfeld didn't say a single thing about results.

It didn't matter if he was motivated or not. It didn't matter if he was writing great jokes or not. It didn't matter if what he was working on would ever make it into a show. All that mattered was "not breaking the chain."

And that's one of the simple secrets behind Seinfeld's remarkable productivity and consistency. For years, the comedian simply focused on "not breaking the chain."

What is your excuse?

We are entering the season of Gift Fairs – so there will be a lot of B2B selling happening. A past business partner started an export business (gifts to the USA) and it took them four years of showing at the shows before they got a meaningful order. You may not do business the first time, but who knows what will happen if you stick to it?

This is the message of persistence – not about being a nuisance.

Not every person is a prospect, but if the representative has made an honest and accurate assessment of the buyer’s needs and that buyer (i.e. the retailer) is a true prospect, both parties will gain from the representative being persistent.

That consistency creates trust – which is the bedrock of a relationship.

Eighty percent of success is showing up.

Woody Allen

Have Fun


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It doesn't matter even if I told you so

I write a blog. It is not professional journalism and I don’t have source or reference anything. But, just to give you comfort about this blog: more often than not you will hear it hear first.

That might give you comfort, but it is killing me.

I published a post on the 12th of December that content marketing is killing the internet. On the very same day, The Atlantic published a piece on the same topic. Of course that is written and edited professionally. (Because of the time zone difference, I am claiming bragging rights.) You can’t really compare a short blog piece with a professionally published article and I don’t claim any equality from that perspective. (I only became aware of this piece on 25 Jan 2014, wrote the post and is scheduled for 5 Feb 2014 in my pipeline.)

The essence of The Atlantic piece is:

It is too damn hard to keep up. And most of what's out there is crap.

The essence of my piece was:

Content is dying because, even though my content was good, there is obviously better content. There is ALWAYS better content and with so much of it around, nothing but the very best will get accessed. Even then, it better be free. And even if it is free, there are increasingly lower returns on it.

Now that topic has become a debate.

The original article got zero tweets, likes, shares and zero comments.

Now that I can say ‘I told you so’, will you pay more attention?

I am guessing not.

Because every post is just a grain of sand on that great beach we call the internet.

When do you cross the line between fitting in and group think?


The Asch conformity experiments of the 50s provide some valuable insights into the phenomenon of conformity and the influence of groups. (Funny and scary at the same time.)


This video provides a hilarious insight into the power of groups - but there is a serous point to consider:

How much of your behaviour is about CONFORMITY? This is possibly one of the biggest (uinnoticed ) negative implications of social media. Vigilante consumers and mobs that rule because they can is scary and not a day passes without another example.

I am going to address that in an important post next week - stay tuned.

Ganador Blog is about #thinkdifferent. We cover topic of business- and personal development aimed at entrepreneurial marketers. (c)Applies. Posts authored by Dr Dennis Price.

Santa brought a gift for retailers, but not what you think


An interviewer asked a small child – a little girl of about 7 or 8 – how Santa managed to get all the presents delivered in one night.


Without a second thought, she lisped through her missing teeth ‘he useth hith magic powerth to time travel’.

As an adult, you realise that is ridiculous of course – and you can laugh at her answer. To her though, it is completely real.

She encountered a problem of logic. Her young mind is astute enough to realise that the world is a big place and getting around on one night was going to be difficult.

So, she rationalised. Maybe a parent helped her along by giving her the ‘solution’. Maybe she connected the dots by watching too many cartoons.

But she needed a reason and she manufactured one.

Retailers do the same thing. (We all do of course, it is human.)

  • We believe (in) certain things and then we seek justification for those beliefs.
  • We believe things about how customer s behave
  • We believe things about how employees should be treated
  • We believe things about the type of promotions that work and why they work.
  • We believe things about how products should be priced
  • We believe things about how the future will play out
  • We believe that people are a certain way
  • We believe retail success is achieved a certain way.

And we have reasons for these beliefs. And they are rational and make sense to us.

We forget that we have actively filtered out any contradicting evidence and only internalised the evidence that was congruent with our beliefs.

Just like the little girl who believes in Santa.

But we think because we are adults, we don’t believe things that are wrong. Obviously that would be irrational. We forget though that we only use selected facts to substantiate what we believe.

We all want to believe in Christmas - or whatever it is that you want to believe. And we have the facts to back it up.

Somewhere I can just hear God laughing.

Are you labelled?

Artist. ADDHD. Anorexic. Aboriginal.

Bipolar. Bikey.



And the rest of the alphabet all the way to Xenophobe, Yankee and Zulu.

The human need for understanding, for wanting create order from chaos is manifested in our need to identify a cause for every effect. And we resort to labelling things to help us curate reality – sufficiently for it to make sense to us.

This can be a good thing. Labels can be an admission. Labels help us communicate better by simplifying things.

But mostly it can be a bad thing. The innate need may be satisfied, but the problem may not actually be solved.

Labels can lead to oversimplification of a complex reality. Labels provide a false (and maybe inappropriate) level of comfort that the problem is solved or understood.

But more problematically, I have experienced it often enough to consider it as common that there need to label things and thus identify the cause has much to do with our need to absolve ourselves.

If a kid can be labelled ADHD then the parents don’t have to feel guilty for raising a brat.

Somehow people seem to always suffer from depression and they are never simply tired or stressed.

I do not make light of mental health issues and it is important that people can raise it without any more fear of ridicule than someone would admit to having the flu. But I wonder if the widespread, seemingly spurious claims to these labels actually help or hinder the real sufferers.

This label malaise applies to businesses too. Consultants are used to find plausible causes. At performance review time we are conditioned to find a reason for not meeting the budget.

We spend a lot of time on finding and finetuning those labels that will serve well as an excuse. GFC might the finest label of all time. Again, it is not to say that a business wasn’t affected by the GFC.

In our business I also experienced a revenue decline in the years following the GFC, but I can never be certain that it isn’t because I readily took that excuse as a way out to stop doing certain things and start doing other things that had a bigger impact than the GFC possible had.

I would suggest it is prudent to think twice before we accept any old label as a valid ‘cause’ and consider instead whether we are simply yielding to our need to find cause that absolves us from our responsibility.

Swimming against the tide like the Dixie Chicks

Natalie Maines is the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks (DC). They were hot in 2003. Hot as in topping the Country Music charts.

Image: Rolling Stone

Image: Rolling Stone

In 2003 George Bush was riding high in the popular opinion polls having declared war on terror and the whole Iraq/Iran thing was happening. A vengeful American public was high on patriotism.

At one of the DC concerts Natalie spoke out against GWB. Her exact words to her London audience at the time were:

“Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” 

For her trouble, most C&W radio stations blacklisted them and consequently destroyed the band and their livelihood.

Entertainers often have things to say about society. (One can argue that art is one such an expression.) Sinead O’Conner attacking the Pope, for instance.

And commentators have done a lot worse. Ted Nugent for instance compared Obama to Hitler. Chris Brown physically abused his wife. The list is very long.

The strange thing here is that although what Nugent said is clearly much more vicious and personal, he suffered no backlash. Hank Williams echoed his sentiments and although he was dumped from ESPN, no radio station blacklisted him, like they did the DC.

The Dixie Chicks simply expressed an opinion that, at that time, wasn’t popular. The supreme irony is that public opinion has since swung completely and the vast majority of Americans dismissed George Bush’s presidency as, to put it mildly, a failure. His high opinion polls tanked from historic highs to historic lows.

One could argue that the public (eventually) agreed with Natalie Maines.

They did not forgive her and they did not rectify the damage they caused. The DC are still blacklisted.

We shrug our shoulders and say, c’est la’vie. They swam against the tide and paid the price. There is no justice in the world.

But I can’t help but wonder. Why is it that certain causes grab the attention of people? I am thinking particularly at the most common form of crowds and communities and that is the Social Media Mobs. The crack-smoking mayor (Rob Ford, Toronto) and the New York Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner for ‘sexting’ are pursued and ridiculed for breaching the community’s expectations of decency.

But they do nothing when radio stations- against the general community views - destroy people’s lives unilaterally and deprive them of the opportunity to express their views simply because they are different.

Social media is ruled by mob mentality. There is really no rhyme or reason other than whatever is popular at the time, for a cause to be embraced and for a cause to be ignored.

You are probably reading this on some form of social media or at least it may have led you to this post. This is not a personal accusation. Individuals can act rationally and I am sure you do too. It is when we get caught up in a mob that things change. It is no consolation for the poor sucker caught in it that they might be ‘right’. To the mob it does not matter.

It is so sad that this must be one of the unintended consequences of social media.

Lessons from the big guys about the big decisions you must make

One company had a reason to sell and the other had a reason to buy the same asset. In each case a bunch of smart people crunched numbers and a Board of Directors mulled over the transaction and approved the exact opposite strategy.

This is not about GPT or about Federation. The same scenario plays itself out millions of times a year in all industries. Some smart people see evidence for climate change and some smart people don’t. Some smart people see Evolution as the grand architect of our life, others see God. (Of course, whoever disagrees with you is dumb, right?)

Let’s use the sale of the shopping centre as an example for decisions in business: There is no right or wrong. (Last week I wrote how everything you believe is wrong.) In a few years one of the companies will have benefited more than the other from that transaction. It still doesn’t mean that it was right or wrong, just better or worse. Or both could win. And of course both could lose out, despite their best efforts.

It may different if you are a brain surgeon; where the domain is small and closed. Perfection is possible. There is a right way to make an incision. In your store there may be a right way to cash up and a right way to build a display.

But the more important the decision and the bigger the domain, the more complex everything gets. Should you go multi-channel? Should you open another store? Should you consider franchising?

Don’t obsess about getting it right. You never will. There will always be arguments for both sides. Think. Evaluate as best you can. But then, pick a side and go hard.

Momentum overcomes most obstacles.

When you work in a complex adaptive system known as ‘the market’; close enough is good enough. In business, fortune really favours the brave.

This is my last post for the year, but there are a few more on my other blog; amongst other things, a post about the Dixie Chicks debacle of a decade ago. Come and visit if you need inspiration.

Otherwise, have fun … and remember: GO HARD, even if you get it a little bit wrong.

I hope for a blessed festive season for all readers of INSIDE RETAIL.


Ganador: For retail-savvy teams taking on the 21st century economy.



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