Category Archives: Invention

Words and phrases we hope never to see again.

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By Jeff Bowman

2012 certainly provided us with a great number of new words and phrases which we can use to pepper our vocabulary to show we are part of the “in crowd”, “with it” or from my generation “hip”

Words and phrases from the past that we all grew to hate such as “phat”, “say what”, “this is true” and “penultimate” will hopefully be joined by the new crop of vocational gobbledygook. I do not abhor all new “wordventions”, as some of them are used to describe things that have a real purpose or are a new process or product that require a moniker of some sort, such as a “blog” What I do have a distaste for is the words and phrases coined for fads, or those destined to have a limited “shelf life”. The “one-hit wonders” of the vocabulary world.

The 38th annual List of Words to be Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness has announced its honour roll for 2012. For the most part “they have hit the nail on the head” and have “aced” the compilation. Look for the dastardly dozen in the following paragraph.

Spoiler alert.  Before I kick the can down the road, and cross another thing off my bucket list, I need to ensure that my finances for 2013 don’t bring me to the edge of the fiscal cliff. I don’t pretend to be a guru on business,  however  I have a passion for following what’s trending! This year nutrition has ranked highly in the news, from Superfood to boneless wings (I thought a boneless wing was simply a piece of chicken), we are left wondering what really is good for us. Seems it is all really about job creation for someone! You can double down on that one. Oh well, YOLO!

As good a job as they have done in “growing the list”, I would like to add a couple more. As much as I despised the Macarena years ago, “Gangnam Style” has taken its place on the most irritating list in my book, certainly destined to replace “The Chicken Dance” at weddings over the next 10 years! Another phrase I hope disappears is “Disclaimer of Interest”. Perhaps because I am a hockey fan, but more likely just because we have other words and phrases that promote the same message, some with much greater intensity than others!

As 2013 begins I anxiously await the first new “outside the box” addition to the English language, until then I’ll just “sit tight” and “bide my time”.  What word or phrase from 2012 would you like to be rid of?

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Filed under blogging, Communications, Invention, Jeff Bowman, Marketing

I’m in the Business of Attitude Adjustment

By Jeff Bowman

A business, no matter how big or how small, and despite how long it has been in operation, has a reputation built on the positive attitude and energy of the employees who believe in and work towards the mission statement and vision of the organization.  The confidence and commitment you have in your business creates an aura easily seen by your clients and competitors.

Attitude, from the top down, is responsible for the success or failure of any business venture.  Is your attitude, or the attitude of your employees pulling you down?  Are opportunities being missed? Are you taking full responsibility for your own actions as well as the responsibility for ensuring that your customer’s objectives for dealing with you are being met and exceeded?

We have all heard the expression that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.  Think of the weakest link in terms of the poorest attitude.  I like to define attitude as “the state of mind that enables us to create positive energy from any situation” There are people who sit back and wait for life to supply them with satisfaction, and there are others who constantly search for the proper fuel with which to stoke their internal drive mechanisms.

A dose of positive attitude acts much like a steroid in building up the strength of a business, allowing a new business to get a good running start and turning a run of the mill business into a commercial dynamo.

Attitude must be displayed in your Business Plan, marketing plan, sales programs, customer service, web presence and your public persona.  It needs to be supported at every level of your business.  You need to lead your employees into the building every morning with an attitude of success and leave every night looking forward to the successes of tomorrow.  Employees follow by example, and if the example is one of focus, definition and intent, your business is certain to breed success.

I once heard a  good analogy of business, which rings true to any businessperson with a positive attitude.  “The business is your baby, and there certainly will be a great number of diapers to change and messes to clean up, but when the baby is all grown up and successful, whoever regrets what they went through to get there.”  Stories abound about the attitudes of great business people. Col. Saunders who was turned down hundreds of times for his “Secret Recipe”.  Where would Kentucky Fried Chicken be today if he had given up? Dave Thomas of Wendy’s fame actually learned from Saunders when he was a young man and built Wendy’s up in the face of McDonalds.

Obstacles and frustrations occur in every business, it is the attitude that you adopt that allows you to understand, overcome and move on to the next level of success. Does your business need an attitude adjustment?

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Filed under advertising, Branding, Communications, Innovation, Invention, Jeff Bowman, Marketing, Sales, Training and Development

Avoid bandwagons, be cautiously innovative

By Jeff Bowman

There has been a trend over the past 10 years or more to try to spot the next trend.  It appears to be the trendy thing to do in business.  As trendy as it might seem, it can be a very risky venture if you make bad decisions at the wrong time.

I am certainly not immune to jumping on the trend bandwagon, and making bold predictions about what would and could be. If I was in a position to be investing from a business standpoint, I would have ended up as one of those business failure statistics that we all read about.

In the mid 70’s the laserdisc was hot, and by the time I purchased several of the latest films on disc, it was all over.  A miserable failure.  I graduated a couple of years later to the betamax machine, it was the future of home theatres, highly touted by everybody who knew anything about the future of electronics. It lasted several years, however gave way to VHS.  My collection of beta movies was donated to the local Thrift store. Even today I am left wondering what to do with my 200 VHS movies!

These technological trends aside, I am old enough to remember a couple of real beauties that were predicted, documented and fed to us every day as the future.  The businesses that invested in products and services related to the oil crises in 1973 and the coming of the next ice age due to global cooling around the same time, may have made some short-term profits, but likely suffered long-term pains.

My skepticism about jumping on the trend bandwagon remains with me as a business person today.

The trends I look towards now are largely demographic, and as a marketer that is where I should be focusing my attention. Canada has an aging population, so the opportunities that exist for businesses in any related field to that market make good sense. The trick is when to enter the market to minimize the risk factors.  Some experts will tell you that you need to be on the leading edge in order to capitalize on the potential.  I disagree.

There is a curve called the Law of Diffusion of Innovation. The law states that there is a period of time before the mass market will accept the product or service. Until the innovators and early adopters accept the product, more than 80% of potential buyers will not make the purchase. I would prefer as a small business to wait until the early majority begins to accept and purchase. This is the point where momentum will take the product to that 84% of the market that remains.  There is less chance of early rejection, and more time for market forces to make changes and innovations as the product matures. It’s always nice to be the first into a market, the innovator, but keep in mind that you are also the most vulnerable at that point to failure.  True entrepreneurs will take the risk, small business owners should be a little more conservative in their approach.

Take the time, look at the trends, and break the potential down into critical categories where needs will begin to emerge.  If you can capitalize on a growing need, that is the key to success in any business.

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Filed under Innovation, Invention, Jeff Bowman, Sales, Strategic Planning

What’s the Big Attraction?

By Jeff Bowman 

Let me get this straight. The Internet is responsible for changing the face of sales and marketing? Well, yes and no.  The Internet has certainly had a huge impact on the way consumers buy goods and services, as well as on the way companies need to market to match the consumer trends.

In saying this, I don’t want to give all the credit to the Internet.  The Internet is  just the latest mode of communication to take hold in the mass markets.

In the 1700’s you had the traders and merchants come to town with products like silk from the Orient, furs from Canada and foods the likes of which had not been seen.  Anywhere there was water, consumers had access.

The 1800’s brought the railroads, regular newspapers, The Pony Express and local General Stores, which had a huge impact on production and distribution of products to the consumer and how companies needed to communicate.

Wow, the 1900’s came and blew everyone’s socks off with mail order catalogues, automotive transportation and delivery, the telephone, radio and the advent of television. Now you could actually see a product demonstration and marketing and advertising hit the big time. The rate of change was so rapid people found it hard to keep up with the pace of technological innovation.  Heck we went from black and white televisions to colour televisions in a matter of a decade or so!  Then came the computer and with it eventually the  Internet in the tail end of the century.

The Internet has made the same type of impact that television did on mass marketing.  The trends to globalized communication grow stronger everyday now, and we are left wondering what the next big thing will be.  The change for companies has been dramatic in the last 20 years.

No longer do they mass market or target market, it’s all about “attraction marketing”. It’s all about educating consumers and attracting customers to you.  Building prospect lists, high visibility on the web, tracking buyer habits through electronic interaction.  Blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter.

There is a completely new strategy that needs to be employed, because your old marketing strategies will simply be extinct in a few years. Imagine using a mail order catalogue in the light speed world of technology today.

The question is, what steps are you taking to become better equipped, more competitive and be able to grow your business in the 5 years?

If you are unprepared, I would suggest professional help!

Resistance is futile!

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Filed under advertising, Branding, Communications, Facebook, Invention, Jeff Bowman, Marketing, Media, Online marketing, Sales, social media, Strategic Planning

Working from a Clean Slate

By Jeff Bowman

As I travelled through Scotland, it became very obvious that the Scots were experts at making the most out of the least. It is a business lesson worthy of note.

I often speak about the importance of looking for opportunities for your product or service outside the usual suspects.  An example would be a wood mill producing wood for building.  For years the shavings were discarded, and now there is a strong demand for the shavings to produce chip boards, wood pellets for burning and even animal bedding.  It is maximizing the sales and usage opportunity of your goods.

Long have I heard the stories about the Scots being “frugal”.I have a different slant on it.  They are intelligent users of their resources, and have been way ahead of the “reduce and reuse” curve that we are just getting a handle on now.

I asked a local business person in Glasgow why the roads were barely wide enough for two cars on the outskirts of the city. His response was simple and to the point, “ land is precious and roads cost money, if cars can pass what else do they need”. He is absolutely correct.

As I looked around, it was all around me. All the taxis were the same make, more compact to make travelling on the tight roads easier and safer, and repairs were simplified due to them having the same parts.  Many of the buildings looked centuries old even in newer sections of town.  They build them like that because they have an abundance of granite, and want continuity with the older buildings in the city. The older buildings, some hundreds of years old were obviously built to last.

One product really caught my attention.  The vast majority of roofs were slate tiled.  Where we use metal, asphalt shingle or cedar shakes, they use a much heavier natural material taken directly from quarries all over Scotland. In some cases these roofs last hundreds of years. In cases where repairs are required, slate is recycled from other buildings that have been removed or disassembled with the stones being saved for other new projects.  Not only were the slate tiles on buildings, but the exact same slate tiles appeared in many different places throughout my trip. They were placemats in one of the older hotels.  I ate off slate tiles in a popular Scottish pub. Souvenir shops had slate tile calendars.  Some of the public washrooms used them on the counters, and I can’t tell you how many places used the same slate tiles for floor tiles.

If there was another use for these rectangular tiles, I couldn’t think of it.  Not only have they maximized the usage of a particular manufactured product that they mine the raw materials for themselves, they have methods of reusing it as well. Even the chips from the cutting process are used in garden beds for decorative purposes.

Call the Scots frugal if you must, I prefer to think of them as people make the most of what they have and look for ways to gather value out of everything they do. Buildings that last hundreds of years, roofs that don’t need replacing every 20 years, and a myriad of uses for a single product from a single manufacturing process.  That’s just plain smart.

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Filed under Environmental, Invention, Jeff Bowman, Manufacturing, Sustainability