How to ride a Giraffe – By John Timpson – Mini review

How to Ride a Giraffe - By John Timpson

I was given the book ‘How to ride a Giraffe – By John Timpson’ by the people from the rather excellent Real Business magazine and so thought it would be well worth a read, but I have to say that some of the first chapters really bored me – the history was fascinating but it was all a bit self congratuatory. But then it got to Chapter seven ‘Only great people need apply’.

In this chapter, rather than looking back at what a clever bloke he is, John Timpson opens up about the recruitment of Timpson’s staff. His conclusion is that if they had only tried to recruit cobblers, they would have had a choice of 30,000 people or so, but by aiming to recruit people with the right attitude, they had a far wider choice and they could easily teach them to mend shoes, given a year or so of training.

This is something that is very easy to overlook – particularly when times are tough. We are in danger of reverting to type and taking on people who are a safe pair of hands and can be dropped in to do a safe job for the business. But this can only ever put you in a holding pattern. Safe people will only ever maintain or slightly decline your business. Stars make it grow.

If you look at how US basketball teams recruit, they look for giant kids. This is their version of buying the hardware. They know that again, they can teach some (or maybe even many) of them to play basketball – ie, adding the software. You can’t teach a kid to be a giant, just as you can’t teach an experienced cobbler to be a happy person with a customer service attitude, so buy the hardware and add the software with good training and mentoring.

I’m reserving judgement as to whether the whole book is worth reading, but so far, this chapter alone makes it well worth the effort.

The Internet – creating the perfect market economy?

Nottingham's old market square
Nottingham's perfect market economy in the old days - if a seller sold bad product - everyone knew

I’ve written a few pieces recently about consumer power (and blogger power) and wonder whether we are reaching the position of a perfect market economy. That is the previously theoretical situation, where all the buyers having all the information to buy identical products.

When I studied economics at school the section I was most fascinated with was the perfect economy.

And I think that we’re almost there, because that’s the Internet now isn’t it?

All the buyers have all the information and almost all retailers are selling identical products.

And, as the theory of the perfect economy states, if all the buyers have all the information and the market is selling identical products, then people will always buy from the lowest price supplier. This has to be true, doesn’t it?

Well, no. they’ll buy from the one they trust the most, as long as the price is there or thereabouts.

My mate and business guru Andy Hanselman once said to me that ‘advertising is the price you pay for being mediocre’.

He’s right.

Products and services rise from mediocrity by being exceptional, by being differentiated and by being well branded.

So rather than the internet killing brands, it’s offering them the most incredible opportunity. A world at their feet, that’s theirs for the taking.

It’s the perfect market opportunity.

A version of this article was first published as The Perfect Economy and branding? on Technorati.

Best Buy in UK – Well no, not really

I don’t want to appear like a freaky TV pricing groupie, but I got an email this morning from Best Buy. The US phenomenon that was going to take our market by storm when they opened in Lakeside shoppping Centre.

Forgive me for being underwhelmed, but like the sad act I can be at times, I price checked them against my usual suspects Dixons and John Lewis. And guess what?

They’re really a worst buy. It’s £319.99 at ‘best Buy’ with a normal warranty.

Samsung LE32C450 32" LCD HD Ready TV from Best Buy
Samsung LE32C450 32" LCD HD Ready TV from Best Buy

It’s far cheaper at Dixons at only £274.72

Samsung LE32C450 32" LCD HD Ready TV from Dixons
Samsung LE32C450 32" LCD HD Ready TV from Dixons

And an excellent value £296 with a not quite free five year guarantee at John Lewis.

Samsung LE32C450 32" LCD HD Ready TV from John Lewis
Samsung LE32C450 32" LCD HD Ready TV from John Lewis

We are now working in an almost perfect market, where all the buyers have all the information and the lowest price wins all the business. For me that means you choose whether it is worth an extra £22 for a four year extended warranty (it clearly is here!) with John Lewis.

Best Buy? Brand values that deliver what they promise?

You judge for yourself.


Now, i’m not going to suddenly claim to be the people’s champion, but I did notice a rather large spike in my traffic to the site yesterday and, guess what? Best Buy have reduced the price of the Samsung LE32C450 32″ LCD HD Ready TV to  a more reasonable £278.99. A reduction of £41 or in percentages, 12.8%. Is that the power of bloggers like us who Andrew Marr likes so little, or is it a pure coincidence. Again, you be the judge.

Blogger Power - the newly reduced Samsung LE32C450 32" LCD HD Ready TV
Blogger Power - the newly reduced Samsung LE32C450 32" LCD HD Ready TV