Nature or Nurture?

I noticed this morning that a particular area of my box hedge isn’t growing as well as other areas. See the two photos below.

hedge1 hedge2

In order to remedy the situation I thought about what the different things I could do:

  1. Ensure the poor performing area was getting enough water
  2. Make sure the soil wasn’t poisoned in that particular area of the garden
  3. Remove the weeds from the periphery
  4. Add some fertiliser to the struggling area
  5. Aerating the soil with a hoe
  6. Ensure the area is getting enough sun

In fact, I’ll try the methods above. What I wont do is ‘remove’ the box hedge. I really need it because it forms part of the garden perimeter. It provides the required symmetry. It’s an integral part of the garden. I will give it the extra attention it deserves, and talk to it. I won’t pretend it will fix itself, because I know that is just a fantasy.

So, why do we take the opposite view with our staff / employees or business partners? We rarely ask first what we can do, and most often just ‘cut them out’, get rid of them, or even chastise their performance, before we look at the reasons for it. Maybe they:

  1. Aren’t getting enough cash to do their part?
  2. Maybe their part of the organisation has structural issues?
  3. Maybe they have non functional ‘hangers on’ stealing time & resources?
  4. Maybe we need to invest in some training or programs to boost the area?
  5. Maybe we need to give them more space & freedom to perform?
  6. Maybe we are not providing enough reward & recognition?

You’ve probably noticed how many of our people problems have strong analogies to my box hedge. In fact, both nature and people, need nurturing.

Steve – founder

Business relationships & startups

Entrepreneurs must build all types of relationships.

  • Relationships with our suppliers and the value chain
  • Relationships with our buyers & resellers
  • Relationships with our staff and business partners / investors
  • Relationships with our audience & evangelists

In fact, when we are small have little or no revenue, the only thing we can do is have conversations and build relationships. These will lead to action and revenue. While having dinner with a colleague the other night, John Colbert of Corporate Edge training he gave me his view on relationships.

He said:

There are two important factors in relationships – frequency & proximity.

How frequently are we engaging the other person? Where frequency, is any type of conversation, communication or interaction.

And what is our proximity to this person? Where proximity pertains to the physical closeness and real world interactions we have together. Do we meet in person? Are we getting to know each other without the use of technology? Simply meeting in the same location?

The more of the above two things we have the stronger our relationships come. If we for a moment think of who we have strong relationships with, we’ll see we have both Frequency and Proximity.

The reality is humans want to deal with people they like, trust and know. This is what relationships build.

So if one of our important business relationships (those listed above) is flagging, maybe we should have more frequent interactions, get closer or do both.

Outsourcing – Visuals vs Backend

As webpreneurs we all now employ offshore coders to develop sites using super cool resources like Odesk and Elance. The process is a simple one. But just like all things good, there are some catches. Here’s some advice from someone whose done, does it and occasionally avoids it.

The main thing you need is patience and very considered briefs. When there is a language barrier, ideas and words can be taken very literally.

Our experience is that some (not all) offshore IT practioners are indifferent with ‘visual’ requirements. Maybe it’s a cultural implication. And there are many things we’ve had done much better offshore, like finding creative solutions to technical problems. We’ve worked with some great creative bootstrappers. But it’s clear that more developed markets put a much higher value on ‘aesthetics‘. So we get all our rentoid visuals done locally, while we outsource alot of our backend work. It’s akin to a convenience store you might see in India, there just not quite as pretty as those in Australia and the USA. See below.

Western Convenience Store

Convenience Store India

Retail Madness

I took this photo in a local mall in Melbourne on August 9thThe coldest part of winter.

Anyone who lives in or has been to Melbourne knows it’s still very cold until November. Yet the clothing retail chain above already has summer clothes only in the display window. And they’ve already started their winter clothes clearance – in the middle of winter!

The top temperature on said day was 11ºc / 55ºf with snow falls down to 400m.

Here’s the weather forecast for Melbourne for the coming week:

This is retail gone mad – for a few reasons:

They are selling their ‘winter’ stock ‘during winter’ at a 70% discount?

Consumers don’t care about their buying seasons, just what the weather’s like – right now.

Melbourne people don’t care what the weather’s like in Queensland.

People’s lives are too busy to buy clothing 4 months in advance.

They are letting their supply chain get in front of what consumers actually need and want.

No prizes for guessing the store was empty.

If we buy hot soup on cold days, and ice cream on hot days, why should clothing be any different? It’s not. And is less so, as time becomes the finite resource.

If you’re a start up in the retail arena.

Startup blog says: make your range, match the ‘real’ world. You’ll be far ahead of any retail chain.

Badvertising – New Mother by Coke

Many including startup blog predicted the death of Mother Energy Drink before it was launched. By the way this was Coca Cola Australia’s 4th attempt to get a share of the energy soft drink market. Other attempts included Lift Plus, Burn and Sprite recharge. All of which bombed.

As predicted ‘Mother’ should have been called ‘Dog’. So they’ve burried the old stock on hand and Coke have re-launched Mother with an all new fix all flavour. Which has lead to the following badvertising:


Memo to Coke Marketing team: Taste has nothing to do with it. Half of Red Bull’s consumers even admit they don’t like the taste. Consumers know the same people developed the flavour profile of this launch too, and yes they know it’s made by Coke.

The energy space is already occupied in the minds of consumers. The market is already dominated by two powerful brands with strong identities & distribution depth. Save your money on advertising and put it towards buying Red Bull gloablly or V for the Asia Pacific market – because this category is already game set match. The two horse race which all categories become has been run and won.

One more thing – this spot is so contrived, your target market would be laughing at you.

Kind regards – Startup Blog.

Note to start ups – if you’re launching a me too, without a price, distribution or technology advantage – best to re-think the launch plans. If Coke can’t do it – why can you?

Technology transfer

Meet Trev.



Trev is small.

Trev doesn’t like going much faster than 120km per hour.

Trev only fits two people and two bags.

Trev can only travel 150km before he needs a recharge.

But Trev is efficient. He only costs 1.1cents to recharge per kilometer. Trev makes petrol look silly.


Here’s the thing. Trev is only possible because of advances in mobile phone battery technology. A classic case of technology transfer. The question entrepreneurs should be asking is what technology can we utilize from industries adjacent to us?


You can read more about it here.

‘Oh, by the way’…pricing & fuel surcharges

The latest trick of many airlines is to segregate elements of their product cost


        Introducing the “Fuel Surcharge”


Apparently this provides pricing transparency. Thanks Mr Airline, but we know the price of oil is rising. 



Isn’t fuel a fundamental input cost for airlines? (30%)

Do they think we care what their input costs are?

Do they realize that we’d rather the total price – no tricks?

Do they know it reduces ‘trust’ in their brand and industry?


And just to show my total disdain for fragmented and aggregated pricing here’s a few questions I’d like to propose to the airline Industry:


Does Nike have a shoe lace surcharge?

Does Ford charge extra for the steering wheel?

Does Coke have an aluminum can surcharge?

Does Nokia charge extra for the buttons on the cell phone?


Fuel is not an ‘optional extra’. So work it out, include it and charge us a price. That’s what business is…. Businesses are meant to be working this stuff out to reduce the complexity in our lives. That’s what business does.


No wonder airlines have the highest business failure rate of any industry, and the worst profitability of any Industry in history. (which by the way is a net negative over the past 100 years)


Start up blog says: Consumers hate ‘Oh, by the way’ charges. Avoid them at all costs.