Milking the Strategic Cow

By Beacon Staff

Last night on Turner Classic Movies, I watched “All the President’s Men”, a movie made from the Carl Bernstein / Bob Woodward book about how they discovered and broke the story on the Watergate break-in and cover up.

And what exactly does this have to do with your business? Lots.

One thing really leaped off the screen at me throughout the entire movie, which I had not seen in several years.

Anytime Woodward, Bernstein, Bradlee and their cohorts communicated or researched a topic, their choice of tools included the following:

Dial phones. Shelves full of thick, heavy phone books from all over the country. A table full of paper files that came from a room full of file cabinets. Manual and electric typewriters. Televisions with knobs. Pay phones. Files and files of tear sheets. Sitting in an office all day to wait to meet a guy for five minutes.

As you would expect, their work didn’t include using the internet and they were unable to Google anything. How in the world did they get anything done? (yes, that was a tongue in cheek question)

Sure, it was almost 40 years ago (wow, am I *old*), but it’s still amazing to see work that is so dependent on communications and access to data – in a totally paper and analog world.

Yes, I know those of you who are a little more experienced at life than myself remember these days – perhaps fondly.

Here’s the point:

Twenty-something employees and perhaps (worse) some of your competitors who are new to your market might be looking at your business in the same way that I saw “All the President’s Men”.

It’s *easy* – even for us – to look back at the movie and consider how much easier a lot of that communication and research would be using today’s communication and data research tools.

What isn’t so easy is seeing beyond how comfortable we are in our current mode of operation and looking at our systems and methods through a critical, but strategic eye.

In more basic terms: It’s OK to be using your grandpa’s 1959 powder-blue F-150 to run your business if it doesn’t create a competitive advantage for your competition.

If it’s making you work harder, driving up your costs, making your operation less safe or otherwise affecting you strategically and/or competitively, then it might be better to drive it for fun on the weekends.

Strategic Moooves

How you leverage information is pretty important too. Information is the cow you can milk continuously.

If you want come up with a new conspiracy theory *or* find a new market niche, there is plenty of data to help you accomplish either goal by wading into the monstrous pile of data available at http://www.data.gov/.

Or perhaps you’ve already got a goldmine of data from data.gov and you want to expand into the UK, so you mosey over to http://data.gov.uk/. I’ll leave it to you to pursue it beyond that.

Things like utilizing this data, analyzing it for market (or competitive) info or just to seek opportunities are a competitive edge that few are taking advantage of.

This isn’t limited to data.gov. Resource industries in particular (or those with an eye on entering them) have a literal fortune of free info out there waiting for them to sift through it and find the nuggets.

Shifting back to economic development

Most of the year, we’ve been talking about economic development – and the conversation above is no exception.

I need to clarify that when I say “create a sustainable economy”, I’m talking about strategically designing and then building an economy that isn’t totally dependent on any one market, commodity, or industry. It has nothing to do with the green implications of the word, despite the fact that wasting energy / materials hurts your bottom line every day.

I still hear folks say they’re waiting for the economy to turn; waiting for the Federal, state or local government to act; waiting on *someone* to do *whatever*.

Start your own economic engine. Waiting for others to fix the economy, no matter how good their intentions are, is unwise.

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.