Monday, August 10, 2009
Confirmation of What is Hot, and What is Not
I got confirmation yesterday evening that I did the right thing moving from the city of Atlanta to the cool town of Athens.
That’s not to say that Atlanta isn’t a nice place. And that’s not to say that Athens is the ideal.
But it was a smart move at just the right time!
On Saturday, I received the new 8/17 issue of Business Week. There were two articles that grabbed my attention and believe it or not, I sat back on the couch and read each one word-for-word.
One of the articles is titled “Capitalism, No. Free Enterprise, Yes.”
Turns out that the US Chamber of Commerce conducted a series of focus groups among Obama voters, McCain voters and small business owners. All three groups responded similar: “capitalism” was associated from the top down and government and “free enterprise” was associated from the grass roots up.
“Capitalism” was bad. “Free Enterprise” and “Entrepreneur” were good.
The second article is about Howard Schultz and Starbucks.
The subtitle captures it all: “He’s facing the fact that the once free-spirited Starbucks is now a multibillion-dollar machine that embraces more conventional management.”
In 1987, Schultz purchased six stores in Seattle.
Today, after recently cutting costs by $500 million, closing down 800 stores in the U.S. and laying off more than 4,000 employees, Schultz is still faced with the management of more than 16,000 stores in 50 countries globally.
Why am I sharing these stories in the context of the move of BrandVenture from Atlanta to Athens?
The confirmation experience last night took place at a restaurant/pub here in Athens called “The Globe.”
I doubt that The Globe will ever be featured in the high fashion magazines like Metropolitan Home, but it draws a pretty good representation of who all dwells here in this place called Athens.
One of the waiters at the bar taught religion for five years at the University of Georgia and now works at The Globe as well as records, produces and launches music from local artists in the Asian East.
Another group of guys sitting on the couches were talking about ways they could generate more fuel from corn than the processing model that is currently being used.
There was a couple that came and sat at the bar that was from Philadelphia. He taught Shakespearean Literature at one of the small private colleges outside of Philly. He and I got into a discussion about how Twitter could be used to get students to read articles and blogs rather than the textbooks that many avoided unless they had the Cliff Notes version.
Both the couple and another guy across the bar used their iPhones to text message friends while sipping on the brew.
There was nearly an equal mix of Millennials and aging Boomers. The two groups mix well. If any GenXers were there, they were the DINK version (Dual Income No Kids).
A table of age 60+ Boomers sat and discussed their concerns about the government taking over healthcare and alternative ways that they might modify what is currently out there to work more efficiently.
Along with a good drink, I also ordered two of the special small homemade burgers. I thought that I was about to get something similar to the ones that Burger King is currently promoting.
Instead I got two really great homemade, hand-shaped burgers with fresh lettuce and mayo.
Who says that High Touch and High Tech cannot co-exist?
To be honest, this is what Free Enterprise is all about.
This is what drives creative thinking and innovation. This is what got Howard Schultz convinced that he needed to purchase those first six coffee houses and bring them to life for others to also experience the same thing that he enjoyed about them.
The advertising community in Atlanta is a very inbred lot of very similar “Integrated Marketing Communication” companies. Not only did we not fit, I cannot easily see how creativity and innovation can function in a community of “sameness.”
And here is one last refreshing experience to share. A few hours ago, when I got to about here in writing this blog, I had to take a break and go visit a bank called Athens First.
The banking officer is a nice Millennial guy probably in his early-to-mid 20s. He told me that in a couple of weeks he would be starting classes in the MBA program at the University of Georgia.
At first I thought MBA? Oh well, this is a bank after all and banks are slow to change.
But then he told me that over the weekend, he attended a session that was hosted by Chris Hank. Chris is an entrepreneurial leader and has recently been added as a guest faculty member to the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia.
This guy from the bank went on to say that he cannot wait to take the courses that Chris Hanks teaches and that he really wants to be an entrepreneur.
Now that is refreshing!
And moving the company from Atlanta to Athens was the right move to make!