Patagonia is a company I first learned about through my high school government teacher, who happened to have been a longtime friend of the founder of the company. The two had shared many adventures backpacking and hiking in remote locations over the years, and as my teacher at the time shared, the company’s image as granola-munching and tree-hugging hippies was quite authentic indeed.

Balancing altruistic and humanistic ideals with the need for business profitability is a dance Patagonia has performed well for decades, as Fast Company recently chronicled:

Sustainable business practices, corporate transparency, authentic brand marketing, family-friendly and flexible employee policies—flip through the business pages of any paper or magazine, or conference panel discussions, and you’ll find these are all de rigueur right now among progressive brands and companies looking for ways to connect with and retain both consumers and employees. They’re also all things Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard wrote extensively about more than a decade ago in his 2006 business memoir, Let My People Go Surfing.

The small iron works and climbing equipment shop Chouinard founded in 1957 has since expanded into a global brand, reaching more than $750 million in sales, and since current CEO Rose Marcario’s arrival in 2008 as CFO, a compound annual growth rate of 14%, and profits have tripled. Perhaps confounding to some, the company has done this while maintaining a strict commitment to sustainablility in its products and supply chain—whether its using 100% organic cotton and creating neoprene-free surfing wetsuits, to a marketing campaign encouraging people to buy less of its products. Though the company’s core philosophies remain the same, Chouinard has published a 10th anniversary update of his book to “share what we have done in the last decade and what we plan to do in the decade ahead to achieve our goals.”

Over at Adweek, Jason Snyder has a great piece on who the real target demographic might be for marketing: robots.

Whoever is closest to the consumer controls the conversation. But it’s not you who’s closest—it’s the machines. The good news for marketers is that unlike fickle, demographic-defying consumers, robots are consistent—staying true to their programming. For now anyway. And talking to them requires speaking their language—and increasingly that language is less about understanding 1’s and 0’s and more about simple, normal words.

 

Having worked with some professionally shot drone footage of properties for use in legal disputes, what I like the most about it is the way that it puts things into context so well.

In real estate, location is everything, and nothing compares to a drone for impact in highlighting a property’s location. Digital Journal has an interview with Douglas Thorn about how drove video is changing the real estate sales industry:

“My videos are like mini-movies,” he tells Digital Journal.”I start with an intro that showcases the entire area so that potential buyers can get a complete idea of the community and natural surroundings before zooming into the home and detailing the interior.”

Thorn’s sizzle reel is below:

Back in 2001, several thought-leaders in the software development world got together and tried to reinvent the business processes behind turning code into something useful and marketable. The result is known as the Agile Manifesto and has spurred on a revolution in how software is made, with a pragmatic, market-driven and user-centric approach.

When AirBnB started eating into the profit margins of the established players in the lodging industry, the threat was not taken seriously at first. Savvy and agile investors quickly transformed small apartment buildings and houses into mini-hotels, creating a new class of social media-enabled commercial real estate investment property. Now, municipalities are actively trying to recapture lost tax revenue. (more…)

Mission statements are like press releases—there are established writing conventions that apply. If you don’t nail the format just right, it will stick out like a sore thumb, and all your hard work will be for naught.*

Whether you are CEO or president, in marketing, or were drafted to your company’s official Mission Statement Committee, your best bet is to play it safe. That means using plenty of jargon to impress upon others that your company “gets it.” (more…)

I’m a huge fan of Gary Vaynerchuk and have been following his work for the better part of a decade. If you’re like most people, you might be thinking to yourself, “Who is Gary Vaynerchuk?” The short version: Gary took his family’s liquor store from $3M per year to over $60M per year by leveraging social media to establish himself as a leading expert in his field. (more…)

Seth Godin is one of those people that anyone involved in business should be aware of. He has written more great books on the topics of marketing and customer engagement worth reading than just about anyone else I can think of.

Recently, Godin wrote about, of all things, playing the clarinet. He describes having taken lessons as a kid and eventually giving the instrument up around the end of high school.

While I was most well-known for playing the saxophone, I have played over a dozen instruments, including the clarinet. I literally laughed out loud when Godin wrote the following:

And yet the lessons I was given were all about fingerings and songs and techniques. They were about playing higher or lower or longer notes, or playing more complex rhythms. At no point did someone sit me down and say, “wait, none of this matters if you can’t play a single note that actually sounds good.”

See, the clarinet is one of a few instruments where just making a decent sound is extremely hard. On piano, guitar, even saxophone, producing a basic sound is pretty easy. I knew many clarinet players who practiced the instrument daily for more than 10 years before they make a sound that wasn’t like fingernails on a chalkboard for me.

Godin continues:

Instead, the restaurant makes the menu longer instead of figuring out how to make even one dish worth traveling across town for. We add many slides to our presentation before figuring out how to utter a single sentence that will give the people in the room chills or make them think. We confuse variety and range with quality.

Practice is not the answer here. Practice, the 10,000 hours thing, practice alone doesn’t produce work that matters. No, that only comes from caring. From caring enough to leap, to bleed for the art, to go out on the ledge, where it’s dangerous. When we care enough, we raise the bar, not just for ourselves, but for our customer, our audience and our partners.

Ultimately, Godin gave up the clarinet because it wasn’t worth it to him. He moved on to other art forms (like marketing and writing) that he did care enough about to do right.

I gave up the clarinet after a few months. I took that extra half-hour I gained back each day and reapplied it to practicing the saxophone. It made me happier, made me appreciate the sax just that much more, and ultimately made me a much better player.

The world does not need another mediocre clarinet player.

Link: Seth’s Blog


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Image courtesy Andrew Fogg

A San Diego law firm and online review site Yelp are engaged in a battle with multiple fronts it appears.

Yelp’s business practices have been called into question many times. This time, however, Yelp is the plaintiff and they are suing a local San Diego lawyer for allegedly posting fake reviews.

Ars Technica has more:

Curiously, Yelp’s lawsuit against McMillan was filed just days before a San Diego superior court judge was supposed to rule on Yelp’s appeal of a small claims case that McMillan filed against Yelp. The initial small claims judge likened Yelp’s practices to the Mafia, a fact that was highlighted in a local news segment on this story. (As a result of this initial ruling, McMillan is now soliciting others in similar circumstances.)…

McMillan hired Yelp to provide advertising services in 2012 after receiving a cold call from an ad sales representative.

“I agreed to pay them just so they wouldn’t start posting negative reviews on my Yelp page,” he said. McMillian claimed to hear previous allegations of what he called Yelp’s “extortion” tactics.

After getting into a dispute as to what services would be provided, McMillan asked to simply be removed from the site.

Yelp refused to remove his listing, thus prompting the small claims court filing.

via arstechnica.com

When BuildZoom launched in March of this year, it served as a listing service for contrators. The intent was to leverage publicly available data from various state contractor licensing boards to connect homeowners with potential remodeling contractors.

The site allows contractors to “claim their profile” and offers paid services for vendors, similar to Yelp. Backed by famous Silicon Valley startup incubator, Y-Combinator, BuildZoom just received another $1.4M of funding and announced plans for the future. According to TechCrunch, the company wants to become more than just a listing service – it wants to get in the middle of transactions:

“Right now it’s sort of like ‘Yelp for contractors,’ but our vision is to evolve it so it’s like a true marketplace,” Wei says of the company’s long-term plans for BuildZoom. “Our vision is to enable and support the actual transaction itself.” Right now, he says, after a homeowner and contractor connect, they go offline to discuss the details of the project, sign contracts, and handle changes. BuildZoom plans to bring those sorts of transactions online.

“We believe if we are really going to make this marketplace work better, and if we’re going to help consumers and contractors have a great experience, we have to get involved with the manner in which they structure the agreement and communicate throughout the traction,” Wei says. “All that stuff should happen in the cloud,” he adds.

Those statements sound very troubling from a risk management standpoint. I’m curious as to how BuildZoom will avoid liability when a contractor fails to complete work in a BuildZoom contract, or when work falls below the standard of care. Home Depot has had some issues in this area, as well…

Regardless, this is just another indication that the construction industry is ripe for innovation and disruption.

via TechCrunch