Archive for 'Personal'

Is the Hurry REALLY Worth it?

Before I get into my little rant, I have to disclose that I’m a total Type A personality all the way so this may strike you as a bit of hypocrisy if you know me at all. I at least admitted to it so now I can get into my thoughts for the day.

The other day I was riding my bike alone on a nice country road that isn’t traveled a lot, but it does get some traffic during “normal” commuting hours. I ride this particular route quite a bit because it’s peaceful, near my house, and it’s reasonably challenging. Generally when I ride solo, I’m off in my own little world not harming a soul, but I guess I must have offended a couple of dump trucks because two took a swipe at me even though there was no traffic coming in the other direction. Luckily I wasn’t going very fast since I was climbing a fairly decent hill, and it was good that I maintained my “line” on the right of the road, or you might not be reading any of my thoughts.

Since I obviously made it through the ride unscathed, I began thinking about how we all seem to have become obsessed with being in a hurry. I’m guilty of it as much as the next person when I’m driving and riding the bike, but I guess I had one of those enlightening moments after the dump truck incidents.

What are we in such a hurry to get to? Would five seconds really kill someone to have to wait to pass someone exercising outdoors? Is it too much to ask that a big heavy dump truck give a cyclist a little room when there is zero traffic coming in the opposite direction? Does swerving at the cyclist accomplish anything? Is it worth all of that just to keep your hurry on? Judging by the two incidents the other day, I guess the “hurry” is more important than anything else at that particular moment.

The “microwave society” touches each of us every single day whether we realize it or not, but it’s getting a little stale to me. Don’t ask me why it suddenly hit me during the ride, but it made me take a little stock of my life and some of the ways I go about doing some things. Maybe the vision of the dump trucks wiping me off the earth drove home the message, but I think I got it—it’s not cool to always be in such a hurry that you could cause harm to others. That’s flat out unhealthy and dangerous so I’m going to be working on myself from here on to dial it back a notch and not be in such a hurry all the time. Look at it this way: if something negative happened to someone else as a result of my hurry, the consequences are likely to stop the hurry altogether for a long period of time.

That’s a different perspective isn’t it?

Product Differentiation? Hardly.

By Roger Bauer

It struck me the other day during lunch at a local Moe’s Southwestern Grill that a new phenomenon has swept the restaurant landscape in the form of poor attempts to differentiate from the competition—renaming accepted terms of business with cutesy nicknames. This is readily visible in the faster food sector, and it’s becoming more prevalent as companies struggle to connect with the consumer in manners which create loyalty and/or preference.

Take Moe’s as a primary example. Personally, I believe they have a very good product to offer, but they’ve gone and out “cuted” themselves with ridiculously silly nicknames for their fare which only serve to confuse and frustrate the customer. It’s easy to see them thinking behind the scenes, but it’s a risky attempt at product differentiation. They’re in fierce competition with franchises such as Qdoba, Baja Fresh, Chipotle, LaBamba, Taco Bell, and Tijuana Flats, (plus many others) but those competitors don’t require a translator to order a simple burrito or taco. Try popping into one of those places one day or night to order a “Joey” or an “Alfredo Garcia.” You’ll get looked at like you have three heads (with good reason).

What would possess a franchise to resort to childish nicknames to try to differentiate themselves? It’s probably an executive’s poor excuse of a marketing concept designed to separate from the competition, but that’s not the type of separation that enables your concept to survive long term. It will ultimately separate them all right—the competition will eventually gain as the initial shtick gives way to annoyance and turns consumers off to the point they prefer the competition even with all other factors being relatively equal.

Sure, things look great for Moe’s presently, and the concept seems “fresh” today, but that can change on a dime without warning. Their current growth could be sapped with one false step because there is less room to wiggle when you’re attempting to retrain your customer base to conform to your concept. What happens if the consumer collectively says “I’m no longer in the mood for Moe?” Would being “cute” be overruled by a desire to becoming truly different (i.e. better)?

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of positives. Their restaurants are well laid out, the décor is modern, the lighting is appropriate, and the food is tasty not to mention reasonably priced. The physical atmosphere is hip and inviting. There are glaring negatives, too. The staff collectively insisting on yelling “Welcome to Moe’s!” at the top of their lungs as a new customer enters doesn’t make me want to setup shop for very long. I can’t wait to get out so I don’t have to hear that any more than I have to. I’d like a little peace and normalcy with my meal Moe, thanks.

Topping off the frustrating concept Moe’s obviously insists upon cramming down the consumer’s throat is the staff correcting the customer when ordering by the desired ingredients instead of its nickname. You’re not training me Moe, you’re supposed to be providing a quality and quick meal which I am going to ring your register for—don’t correct me, simply make the food, take the money, and let me eat in peace!

Moe’s is not alone in this feeble attempt at differentiation, and they won’t be the last, but the lesson to be learned is to keep customer service just that—customer service. The customer is paying so don’t believe you’re going to train the customer as long as the equation is structured that way. If you begin to pay people to come into your franchise or business, you’re well within your rights to try to train them to do business your way. Stick to doing business as the industry dictates until you develop a better way of doing things. Then, and only then, you will have a true differentiator. Simply renaming a common item or process doesn’t make you different—it makes you contrarian. Don’t confuse the two.

Roger Bauer is Founder and CEO of SMB Consulting, Inc., a Louisville, Kentucky based small business consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, web presence, internet marketing, SEO, technology, and business analysis. To learn more, point your browser to Business Consulting. To contact a small business consultant today, e-mail

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