Sunday, October 16, 2011


Kraft announced that it was splitting up; separating its groceries from its snacks, 18 months after acquiring the candy giant, Cadbury.  Or as this article puts it;
"The plan, which would create a $32 billion international snacks business, including Cadbury, Oreo and Trident brands, and a $16 billion North American grocery business, which will include Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Oscar Mayer, Philadelphia, Maxwell House, Jell-O and other non-snack brands, seems to be a financial move, designed in part to please activist investors who have called for the company to separate its high-growth global snack brands from its slower-growing, more mature grocery brands. But it also holds lessons for multinational marketers, looking to drive value in fast-growing emerging countries."
Basically,  for small businesses this is a very interesting and hopeful trend among dominant players in particular industries.  It is an acknowledgement that sales growth in the future will occur in emerging countries and that the United States is a mature market.  It also acknowledges that globalization does not bode the end of local and or regional differences; most of what Kraft considers to be brands with international appeal are thus because they do not require refrigeration and or further preparation.

This  will create a tremendous amount of opportunities for small businesses as it will create niches; or segments of a market/industry that are under served.  No dominant player in a market and or industry can be everything to everyone, and that can create opportunities for small businesses.

Being small or specializing can be intimidating; its hard to fathom, in a world of Facebook, Walmart, and Wall Street, how one can be successful as a small, niche provider of a service and or a product.  But remember, in less than four weeks, the Occupy Wall Street protests have expanded from NYC to 951 protests in 82 different countries.

Serving a niche market in an era of "too big to fail," a term that applies to so many companies in a variety of industries today, has natural barriers of entry or moats.  Serving a niche market in an era of "too big to fail" is also a great way to establish and ensure consumer loyalty; there is only brand recognition when one is everything to everyone but their is product loyalty when one is special to a few.

Niches are nothing more than obvious communities; a term in vogue in the "changing the world" mentality of the innovation leaders of social media and the internet.  Niches, just like communities, can be defined by geography, demographics, or shared interests.

In a world where companies are accustomed to annual sales of hundred of millions of dollars a year, or billions a year, a niche market that can generate millions in sales is just something that they cannot exploit to their benefit.  Regardless of how obvious, how logical, and or how profitable.  Thus, "too big to fail" becomes a barrier of entry!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thoughts On Steve Jobs And Being Different

With the passing of Steve Jobs its quite obvious that not too many people knew all that much about him; I can only wonder with the release of his official biography slated for October 24th if we will get any clearer picture of the man.

On one hand, we are told that he was a tyrant and a bully, but for a multitude, he was a genius, worthy of imitating.  Sadly, imitating and or learning from Steve Jobs will not benefit anyone, because he marched to his own "drummer," and to learn anything from Steve would require one to find their own "drummer" rather than attempting to duplicate someone else's.

As Steve said:
“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
The truth of the matter is most of us do not have our own "inner voice" nor do we, "...have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."  In Buddhism this is reflected as the lotus:
"The lotus (Sanskrit and Tibetan padma) is one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols and one of the most poignant representations of Buddhist teaching.

The roots of a lotus are in the mud, the stem grows up through the water, and the heavily scented flower lies pristinely above the water, basking in the sunlight. This pattern of growth signifies the progress of the soul from the primeval mud of materialism, through the waters of experience, and into the bright sunshine of enlightenment.

Though there are other water plants that bloom above the water, it is only the lotus which, owing to the strength of its stem, regularly rises eight to twelve inches above the surface.

According to the Lalitavistara, "the spirit of the best of men is spotless, like the lotus in the muddy water which does not adhere to it."

According to another scholar, 'in esoteric Buddhism, the heart of the beings is like an unopened lotus: when the virtues of the Buddha develop therein, the lotus blossoms; that is why the Buddha sits on a lotus bloom.' "
 In a world that is championing "consumer centric," "individualization and customization," and the need to "interact" with the consumer Steve Jobs stated very bluntly,
“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”
How many people can honestly say:
“I was worth over $1,000,000 when I was 23, and over $10,000,000 when I was 24, and over $100,000,000 when I was 25, and it wasn’t that important because I never did it for the money.”
Very few have any comprehension of what " wasn't that important because I never did it for the money..." feels like or even means.

Fitting in and going along is more apt to bring one success than having the courage to listen to your inner voice.  On one hand people will promote change, innovation, and talk about changing the world only to also want to promote political beliefs that are 235 years old.  Never quite understood why people who make a living in technology and its promise for a better future would be so willing to promote the promise of the past in their political beliefs.  If the horse and buggy is not a viable option for transportation today then why do we want to believe that the thoughts and ideas of our Founding Fathers are the answer for all that ails us politically.  If simpler, smaller, and traditional works as a solution in one part of your life then why does it not work in all parts of your life?

No, lets respect Steve Jobs and rather than attempt to imitate him, lets try to learn to recognize those among us who, "Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice.  And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."  Let's seek them out and nurture them.  Lets have the strength to understand them rather than scorn them.  In closing, lets remember:
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs

I encountered Steve Jobs for the first time in 1985 with the Macintosh 128K; this was the first and last encounter I have had with an Apple product.

Over the years I have watched Steve Jobs and admired his vision, his focus, and admired the sheer power of his personality.

For those of us who have grew up with the generation that included Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, we have seen numerous people heralded as innovators and visionaries but the reality is that Steve Jobs was a titan on any list of great tech visionaries.

A quote from a 2005 Stanford Commencement address was not only advice to the graduates but it also sums up Steve Jobs in his own words:
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”
Steve Jobs, a man who never settled.  Thank you, not only for the great products, but also for inspiring those of us who refuse to settle.