The World's Unsexiest Business
adding a little sizzle to the convenience store industry
During World War II, a significant number of Royal Air Force fighter jets took a beating from German anti-aircraft fire. The jets that made it back were covered in bullet holes from nose to tail and wing to wing. A run-of-the-mill military strategist might have considered implementing a strategy of heavily reinforcing the armory of the areas where the most bullet holes had clustered. Tsk tsk tsk. The peril of conventional herd mentality thinking. Such a strategist has failed to recognize what Hungarian mathematician Abraham Wald would later brilliantly discover: By analyzing where bullet holes were not found, the fate of aircraft that didn't make it could be reasonably determined. All of which pointed a smoking gun to the sections of the aircraft that were the most integral to keeping it from falling out the sky.
Another way to look at this fallacy thinking is what statisticians call survival bias. We tend to focus too heavily on companies/ideas/thoughts/products/developments that have survived rather than the ones that are buried in the book of failures and the forgotten. But can we blame ourselves for it? You can't lament over the death of something you never knew ever existed.
As a convenience store proprietor or chain c-suite office, how do you leverage talent in helping you spot the figurative 'pot of gold' before you're eventually blown out the sky? Sure LinkedIn might help you get there or even down a circuitous path of a ten degrees of separation based man hunt. So as you can imagine buyer beware: Hiring a strategist can be like a dog chasing its own tail. If you're looking for a good strategist, either you better start thinking like one or convey to the world a message. And that in nothing short of wearing a bulls eye on your back.
Let me not dull my argument here by any means. Every organization that is seeking above average profits or even looking to make a huge non-monetary impact--those don't have to be mutually exclusive-- needs someone in their battalion who doesn't think like everyone else in that organization or even industry for that matter. Besides, a herd follower that expends far too much energy chasing a particular 'hot' trend is usually far too late to the game leaving little energy (or money/resources) to try anything else. Distributing the effort allows for not only multiple concurrent and tactical responses but also a way to fast track the path to unique business model discovery.
Whether it's a complete shake up of your business internals or simply an optimization, the strategist can ensure the most direct route.
There's a multi dimension tactical battle being fought by a very large CSGS player (actually more like a behemoth) in the Southern California market. Clearly someone has been their homework and therefore much analysis in how to best direct attention to what matters most. Leaving the rest to well none other than what seems to be "we'll get to it when it becomes important."
If 90% of your bottom line is generated by fueling operations, would you distribute all of your efforts in fixing everything or tactically double down (maybe even 10x) efforts in ensuring fueling dispensers and all related equipment are kept in nothing less than absolute tip-top shape?
Not very far away from such pristine and well maintained fueling equipment sat an "Open 24 Hours" sign in a state of decay far past the point of repair. Adjacent to that, a small kiosk, where the cashier was housed, showed signs of excessive wear and tear. Redirecting our attention back to the fuel price signs situated around the perimeter of the site, we see nothing but careful attention to detail that the poles had no sign of pain damage and the digits were nearly brand new.
If you're constantly reinforcing the armory of the areas where enemy bullet holes are most likely to down your fleet, you'll not only take out your enemy, they'll also run out of ammunition.
Here's a freebie: Dispensers that are experiencing the greatest number of "drive-offs" are being used (and then abused) by distracted drivers. Specifically, those dispensers that are closest to the entrance of the convenience store or the street. Consider adding offensively 'can't miss me' signage or change the color of the hose and boot to a bright fluorescent to redirect attention to the task at hand and away from the distraction .
By the way, the image shown above is what we decided to come up with as a data-driven tactical response to "drive-offs".
When researching marketing ideas do we focus on what's currently working or what ultimately failed. Some of the biggest failures could have yielded the biggest successes but their timeliness or message was off.
What's going on with a lawsuit being initiated by a "less than savory" male enhancement pill manufacturer directed towards unsuspecting convenience store owners?
As a retailer you're required to pull the products in question. But as a consumer your vigilance against their sale of such "contraband" teeters on the edge of whistle blowing. Or so the 'civic duty' preaching lawyers would like for you to do so.
The offenders: Rhino products (not limited to the following):
The primary players?
PLAINTIFF: OUTLAW LABORATORY, LP (herein referred to as Outlaw)
LEGAL COUNSEL: Robert Tauler, Leticia Kimble (Tauler Smith LLP)
DEFENDANTS: Too many retailers to name ranging from convenience store, liquor store, to bodega style shop owners
Outlaw's claim directed at the convenience store proprietor:
Defendants are engaged in a massive covert scheme to distribute and sell illegal “male enhancement” pills containing undisclosed pharmaceuticals to the general public.
What are these "undisclosed pharmaceuticals" in question? Most notably sildenafil which according to Wikipedia can best be explained using a comparison to male enhancement "miracle" drug Viagra:
Both Viagra and sildenafil are widely used to treat erectile dysfunction. In fact, they contain the same active ingredient. Viagra is a brand name for the sildenafil produced and sold by the company Pfizer. Sildenafil is also sold as a generic drug, which is medically identical to Viagra.
What's the contentious issue?
Retailers who sold such products for which they had no idea contained an ingredient that was only available in prescription form (otherwise known as a Viagra) are being penalized under the following technical legalese ridden statutes:
1. FALSE ADVERTISING IN VIOLATION OF THE LANHAM ACT § 43 (a)(1)(B))
2. VIOLATION OF THE CIVIL RACKETEER INFLUENCED AND CORRUPT ORGANIZATIONS ACT (RICO)
According to a legal source who didn't want want to be named, "this sure sounds to me like Pfizer or even Outlaw doesn't like anyone raining down on its prescription or offshoot prescription profit stronghold. Too bad for retailers they had know idea they could be had on account of an obscure false advertisement legal statute."
That legal statute he's referring to is the Lanham Act, which in laymen's terms, loosely asserts that if YOU as the retailer sell the product then YOU also directly approve of its advertising. Fake or not. Conspiracy optional.
While many convenience store owners and operators are crying foul calling it nothing short of a "shakedown" and "deflection strategy, at best" initiated as a massive attempt by Outlaw to cover its bases, it seems to me like the plaintiff has expertly cornered (or shall I say arbitraged by virtue of ignorance) retailers leveraging a statute which would require such sellers of products to be fully aware of all contained ingredients--even when scientific and chemical obfuscation makes it nearly impossible to do so!
Perhaps seeking to shore up its reserves for a potentially huge financial penalty, Outlaw seems to have no other choice but to seek to collect damages from as many retailers it can find whether or not they had sold said products. Therefore, a rather loaded question looms: To what extent did Outlaw go to find such retailers or was it simply an effort initiated by Tauler Smith to blanket all players in the industry? An anonymous industry expert offers the following reading: "They most likely targeted everyone whose contact details were readily available or forced suppliers to hand over lists of customers."
Seems all like a zero-sum game to me since Outlaw will merely act as a de facto pass-through vehicle by collecting whatever it can from legally served retailers and then remitting such funds back to the FDA or other regulatory body that might potentially levy a massive fine.
Take a look at one of the lawsuits filed against Al-Eryani Wholesale Inc. and Sams Universal Wholesale Inc d/b/a SamCo Wholesale that was scraped from Scribd :
Is it any surprise that the most captivating company leader-orators have the ability to command attention of an audience by means few other than mere spell binding? Adeptly leveraging what Mihály Csíkszentmihályi calls 'flow', these gifted speakers are able to induce the room into a state of trance where every last word of the wisdom and insight being imparted is soaked up to nearly the highest degree.
But what happens when these masterful audience power wielders address a room of listeners whose lives they've actually become invested in?
For the most invested leaders, emotional detachment can become nearly an impossible task. The emotional EQ or even raw skill necessary can neither be entirely learned nor inherited for the greatest spoken word influencers attribute such mastery to a function of grueling practice upon more practice--that to the point of Malcolm Gladwell's dubbed '10,000 hour mastery'. Especially in the corporate realm, guidance on how to be most effective in addressing multiple groups of employees is more rooted in engineering the art of mastery long before mastering the art of speaking even comes into play.
Let's talk for a moment about the 'all hands on deck' meeting.
Its roots can be traced much further back in history to a time that predates any semblance of recorded storytelling. During this period of human development, even the most primitive version of ourselves had deemed a need to communicate abstract and loosely defined higher belief philosophy in an orderly and structured fashion. Whether or not such budding leaders realized it, such a practice spawned the beginnings of a hierarchical based society and the science of influence.
But now fast forward today to the economy 2.0. As we venture head first towards a world that seems to be embracing decentralization with open arms most notably evidenced by the popularization of cryptocurrency, do we not see power being shared instead of hoarded? In this brave new world, we find ourselves caught in a tug of war between dismantling the stodgy preaching of the 'old guard' and the bombardment of the latest, greatest, and perhaps most importantly, disruption worthy. Shiny not even necessary.
From the will-nilly social media peddling so-called snake oil salesmen all the way up to the greatest thought leaders and salesmen of our day--both who've managed to evangelize the philosophy behind such innovation--they're both really interested in a shared end game. And that's amassing a huge following or what was formerly known as simply building a cult. I mean isn't growth hacking just a techie reincarnation of this very tactic minus the doomsday story ending?
Lest we never forget, "History always repeats itself." Lest we always remember those who can shape the future with great success are the greatest students of history itself. Whether it's a deep dive within a particular period's teachings or the distilling of human evolution on a long linear timeline basis, the ability to borrow, synthesize, and then repackage, such lessons unlocks the key for both exerting influence and ushering in impactful change.
Let's call it a duel between brand iconography: a newsletter with unique typography set on a signature peach yellow colored paper versus a web 3.0 multi platform ecosystem replete with price scraping deterrent technology (yes, I've tried albeit unsuccessfully)
For the former, the business model largely relies upon a grassroots movement style heavy handed collective effort of an army of call center 'analysts' (I wouldn't want to offend anyone here by the relegation of staff titles) reaching out to hundreds upon thousands of convenience store owners and operators for supplier and retail prices to collect data to repackage and sell. Integrity seems to be maintained through human 'second pass' common sense and perhaps passive verification.
For the latter, let's call it decentralization at its best (or worst) with a contributor base that teeters between altruistic price informer and competitor manipulator. Sometimes the lines become blurred as evidenced by what seems to be none other than price sabotage while other times consumers simply need to be made aware of a hard to refuse deal at the pump. Revenue is measured in terms of views, clicks, downloads, and subsequent aggregate advertising dollar spend. The integrity of such a system is reasonably kept intact by a distributed self policing effort and something akin to open outcry: if you don't like it or think it's right, someone (human or perhaps bot) will eventually reign in the forces of 'checks and balances' to restore order.
Both company leaders ensure their respective public presence need no fanfare yet their ubiquity as de facto market authority personalities and experts on prices at the pump has largely remain unchallenged for years. But for the sake of dispensing accolades, a 'skin in the game' honorary award might very well be handed to Trilby simply for her longstanding family name having become synonymous with the data itself.
No I mean yes I mean NOOOO!!!
Then comes the use followed by the abuse. The eventual outcome after a year of being in service? A pesky yet temperamental button which no longer functions followed by an irate mob of customers whose subsequent behavior to such a failure in the system is nothing short of completely 'flipping out'.
This beckons the question of what seems to be 'dumb money' R&D spending by Gilbarco and Dresser Wayne: where the heck are you dumping oodles of this cash when nearly every site (50+) I've been to over the last year has experienced the same dramatic wear and TEAR??? Down to very same button, no less.
Solution: Since the 'NO' button seems to be pressed exponentially more times than the 'YES' button, randomize where 'NO' will be placed on the screen so that button wear and eventual tear can be evenly distributed.