What Those ‘Other People’ Do

By Beacon Staff

That’s nationally-known business advisor and author Tom Peters. Give him two minutes. The quote from Friedman is definitely worth it.

If you’re reading this in the print edition, please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOxxBvmpbZU& to view a short two minute clip.

Initially, Peters talks about teenagers when referring to a quote from NY Times writer and author Thomas Friedman, but if you step back a bit, “do your homework” could – and should – be applied to all of us.

Perhaps Tom felt it was easier to get his point across using the “clean your plate” anecdote regarding China and India (did *anyone’s* mom not say that?), but it really isn’t about China or India at all.

It’s about competition – from anywhere.

Your strongest competitor might be in Seattle (Amazon), Bentonville (WalMart), Guangzhou, Pittsburgh, Spokane, Wallace Idaho, Mumbai, Memphis or right down US Highway 2 in Columbia Heights.

If you have the idea that competition is only fair if it comes from a (406) area code or a guy with a 7- plate on his rig, you’re asking to get blindsided.

Think about it: Once you’ve been run out of business (unless you did it to yourself), does it really matter where the competition came from, whether it was WalMart, Amazon, Radio Shack or Joe’s Electronics.

No matter how you slice it, those cheap Chinese-made electronics (or whatever) are what put you out of business, right?

Maybe it was labor related. Like when your competitor moved all their customer service or manufacturing jobs offshore to cut costs. “Suddenly”, you can’t compete with them on price. Once your payroll checks start bouncing, you’re still history, no matter what the cause.

As story after story hits the newspapers, it’s hard not think to yourself that “It just isn’t fair”.

If only Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama, your Governor or Congress had done something…

What has happened to our businesses and thus to our communities is just not fair.

If Pittsburgh has better internet or manufacturing facilities than the Flathead, that’s not fair.

If Mumbai only has to pay their workers $10 an hour while you have to pay $42 an hour, that’s not fair.

You get the idea. I’ll bet you have other examples that are meaningful to your business, but ultimately, we can all find someone to blame.

Who do we blame?

Let’s call the union bosses and blame them for not protecting our jobs. Let’s call the politicians and blame them for raising taxes. Let’s blame engineers, programmers and their employers for creating the technology and automation that’s stealing work from us. General Electric has stated they plan to eliminate 30 percent of their administrative workforce and replace them with automation. That’s not fair.

And let’s most definitely blame those danged foreigners because they don’t want another generation of their kids living in a disgusting slum that we wouldn’t even keep dogs in.

They have a lot of nerve, don’t they? Especially since we deserve that work.

Another angle

Let’s blame Microsoft for changing their software too quickly (or too slowly). Let’s blame Apple for putting out a “phone” that made everyone rethink what mobile could really do for us.

Wait, I’ve got it… we’ll say these companies are “Anti-Competitive”.

We can get our politicians to put them out of business, or at least make things fair. Maybe we can get the Feds to hobble them somehow.

But let’s not spend any time or money investing in ourselves and improving our business, our people, and our products and services. Let’s not totally rethink the market we serve and how we serve it.

That’s what those other people do.

Other people

Thing is, it’s past time for many of us to become “other people”.

Next week, we’ll look at some obvious examples – things that others might have done, should have done, or look back on with a tinge of regret during the rise of WalMart, Amazon, the iPhone and others. During that conversation, we’ll look at what “other people” might have considered and hopefully plant some seeds on how to become one of them.

A new year is coming – always a good time for the best kind of change – the kind you create for yourself.

One final quote from Mr. Peters: “Insist upon (and promote) lifelong learning.”

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him via email at mriffey at flatheadbeacon.com.

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