The Smart Phone Efficiency Myth

I have to say, it has been a great conversation piece.  If there is ever a lull in any conversation, all I have to do is break out my flip phone and the reactions are immediate.  “Is that a flip phone?!”  Yes, that is a flip phone in my hand.  It text, although not very well owing to the annoying assignment of multiple characters to a single digit. It makes phone calls.

That’s it.

Three months ago, I was in the Smart Phone crowd, toting around my IPhone and checking social media every 5 minutes with the rest of the world.  Until one day, I just decided not to.  My arrival at technology rebellion wasn’t as much a function of a look in a mirror, as much as it was seeing my reflection in others.  The Mom at the park with her eyes glued to her cell phone, blissfully unaware of her child being pushed off a slide by an older kid. The driver in front of me that was honked at because he is totally unaware the light turned green 10 seconds ago.  Or the professional associate that never responds to email, but will always be the first to like your Facebook post regardless of the time of day it goes up.

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Efficient?  Time saver?  Keep telling yourself that.

According to a recent article in The Guardian, our smart phone usage is bordering more on addiction than need.  “On average, smartphone owners use them for over three hours per day. From worrying reports of smartphone addiction, to the identification of smartphone faux-pas such as “phubbing”, to the news that seven in 10 Americans have used a smartphone behind the wheel and one in 10 people check their phone during sex, the belief that smartphones are harmless is increasingly untenable.”

One could make the argument that the smart phone has been the single biggest disrupter to the work place, and done more damage to employee productivity, that any other instrument ever invented.  For those of us struggling to maintain work/life balance, the damage at home can be even more disturbing.  When talk of smart phone use at home comes up, many people I encounter go on the defense.  I hear from people that when they get home they “put their phones away”.  If that is you, congratulations, your one of the few.  Accenture reported recently that 87% of consumers use more than one device at a time when viewing entertainment at home.  You thought people didn’t spend quality time with their kids because of TV?  Try throwing a cell phone on top of it and all the sudden your spouse just became third in line for your attention.

For many people smart phones have become a part of their professional career.  Texting has replaced phone calls as the preferred method to communicate.  Instant access to email keeps us connected to work at all times.  And any idle time is now filled scrolling through our friend’s selfies on social media.  I guess at some point an electronic dinosaur like me will become obsolete.  But for now, judging on what I see around me, I have to say, “no thanks”.  Even if my flip phone and I are the butt of a joke or two.

Oh, and remember, if your phone actually rings from a real phone call, it’s probably me.

Courage – The Ultimate Competitive Advantage

We often associate courage with a “fight”, but courage in business has a much broader context.  Webster’s defines courage as “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.”  The obstacle we are concerned with here is “difficulty”.

Difficulty is everywhere in a workplace, and it is in a constant state of conflict with your business courage.  What gets in the way of your courage at work?  Most often the “Too’s”.

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Too disruptive

Too hard

Too busy

Too many risks, not enough guarantees

The five “too’s” above stifle 99% of courage in the workplace.  Why is that important?  If you don’t let it stifle you, you will be in the 1% of professionals that lean into your fears.

Most often in business situations it’s the problem itself that holds the keys to success.  But professionals, for all the reasons above, will shy away from tackling the problem head on.  They yield “too” fear.  In many ways fear is hardwired into our psyche, so this should be no surprise.  We are hard built to be cautious, therefor the term Central “Nervous” System.

But here is a cold hard fact facing all of us, without change and professional evolution, 40% of all companies that exists today will be gone in the next 10 years.

Here is another fact, whatever it is that keeps you up at night, that threatens your business most directly, that is what you need to lean into, and now.

Are you afraid of being irrelevant because your product might be replaced by a better one?  Be the person that invents the better product.

Are you afraid of losing market share because your competitor is out-marketing you?  Invest the time needed into market research and creativity to out-market them.

Sounds easy in concept?  Then ask the hard question – when is the last time you did it?

The Problem with Shoulders

The challenge with growing your shoulder season?  It’s attached to your body.

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“Shoulder Season” is a big buzz word in the Coachella Valley, and anywhere that counts tourism as a major portion of their local economy.  Local cities, chambers, and convention and visitor bureaus often become fixated on the concept of “growing the shoulder season” to add a more stable year-round cash flow.  The challenge with doing that is the theory often belies the fundamentals of why they exits to begin with.

The Coachella Valley is a classic case in point. Utilizing flight arrival patterns at the Palm Springs International Airport we can pinpoint the exact incline and decline in our local economy by looking at the number of daily flights/passengers coming into and out of our desert – it correlates well with economic activity in the valley.  The data matches for one very explicable reason, our economy is built on seasonal habitation.

There is really only one major source for travel to and form the desert, tourism.  We do not have a massive business base shuttling in out of the desert for corporate meetings, there is no major military installation in the valley, or education hub sending kids to and from home on seasonal breaks.  Our economy is almost entirely dependent on tourism  and the many mechanisms in place to support it – hospitality, seasonal homes and country clubs, retail, fine dining, festivals, golf, etc.

Seasonal Habitation is the body we have built for ourselves over the last 50 years or so, based primarily around the weather. People come and go, for short periods of time or several months, based on our weather.  Some may argue “you can’t change the weather” – true in every sense.  But your economy does not have to be a slave to it either, heat has not seemed to slow Phoenix, Las Vegas, or a number of other cities from growing.

No, we are who we are by design. Palm Springs built its chops on being an “escape” for the rich and famous, a place you could come to escape the hustle and bustle of Hollywood, or the cold of Canada.  Escape is the key word there, because it’s a transient word by nature. Our history as an escape is well documented, celebrated, and even marketed.  Think it a coincidence our CVB is called Greater “Palm Springs” instead of “Coachella Valley”?  We are still embracing the fundamental values of yesteryear.  That identity leaves us caught in the vacuum of a resort community that at it’s heart has much conflict about the concept of growing beyond that. Don’t believe me?  Try building anything that increase traffic through the heart of our valley.  For that matter, try building a bike path.

None of this is to say being a seasonal destination is a bad thing, quite the contrary, it has served us pretty well over the years.  But when we talk about creating new economic engines, expanding the shoulder seasons, or just generally moving our economy away from hospitality dominated industry, we do well to look in the mirror and consider what is practical and doable in real terms.  Our shoulders are attached to our body, and our body is seasonal. If we ever want to make serious changes to that, we are going to have to shed some very old baggage around the waist.

The Booming Business of Disruption

Disclaimer – For those that know me, I am not into partisan agendas, political or otherwise.  The below is not meant to give any answers, simply ponder a few questions. For those of you into that kind of thing, read on…

Ask someone if they know who Mark Zuckerberg is, you will likely get a yes.  One of the most famous and perhaps powerful men in the world needs little introduction.  His signature platform now serves 2 billion active users worldwide, positioning him as one of the most unique and informed aggregators of human sentiment the world has ever known.

For all those accomplishments, perhaps Zuckerberg’s most unique role yet may be the one he has assumed over the last few months – a respected voice for Universal Basic Income.   Joined by a small but growing list of the world’s most successful business people, a list that now includes Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and Sam Altman, the president of venture capital firm Y Combinator, the concept of Universal Basic Income seems to be gaining steam.  If you’re not familiar with the idea, in the simplest terms it would mean everyone in the country (perhaps world) gets a paycheck, whether they have a job or not.

While the discussion around Universal Basic Income is legitimate, it might be time to have a more honest discussion about why it is needed at all.  According to Zuckerberg, “we should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure everyone has a cushion to try new ideas.”  Universal Basic Wage is being labeled as a mechanism to “unlock potential in society by giving everyone a safety net.”  While I respect the genius of the man, I would have to question his premise that a meager sum that barely qualifies as monthly rent is going to unlock any great societal awakening.

Which brings me to a Facebook name you may not have heard of, Antonio Garcia Martinez.  A former Facebook Project Manager that left Silicon Valley with this dire prediction, “Within 30 years, half of humanity won’t have a job. You don’t realize it but we’re in a race between technology and politics, and technologists are winning. They’re way ahead. They will destroy jobs and disrupt economies before we even react to them and we really should be thinking about that.”

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Photo by Gnsin ~ Actroid-DER, developed by KOKORO Inc for customer service, appeared in the 2005 Expo Aichi Japan. The robot responds to commands in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and English.

While Mr. Martinez may be on the five-alarm side of technology advancement, his warnings seem to coincide with the leading technology minds suddenly being concerned about everyone’s paycheck.  For years we have been told that technology will bring a better and brighter tomorrow.  That does not seem to reconcile very well with the need for supplemental basic income.

Perhaps another kind of tomorrow is on their mind – Venezuela.  With the collapse of oil prices during the 1980s, the Venezuelan economy was crippled. As the government started to devalue the currency in February 1983 to face its financial obligations, Venezuelans’ real standards of living fell dramatically. Failed economic policies and increasing corruption in government led to rising poverty and crime, worsening social indicators, and increased political instability.  The Country remains to this day a roiled cloud of economic, social and political unrest. In other words, it’s a case study on what happens when people go without.

The reasons for the current dire state of Venezuela are too numerous to count here, but one social lesson is without dispute, the rapid deceleration of jobs, money, and access to basic human needs will lead to one ugly eventuality – societal unrest on a massive scale.  That may be the real reason for the sudden interests in Universal Basic Wage by the men best equipped to peer ahead of the technological horizon.  The constant push to innovate may be about to make its biggest push yet, displacing the world’s middle-class right out of employment.

If the dire warnings are right, and jobs truly will be eliminated on a massive scale due to technological advances, it begs a very interesting question.  Has Capitalism finally run head-long into a market condition it cannot overcome – innovation?  For the economies sake, Zuckerberg’s reasons for Universal Basic Wage would be far more pleasant than those of Mr. Martinez.

The Chamber Cycle of Smallness

Deep in a conversation about the challenges, frustrations and travails of running a small chamber, a colleague issued this beleaguered statement to me:

“I feel like we are stuck in a cycle of smallness”.

Many chambers find themselves there today.  As the world of communication and marketing continues to peel back it’s infinite layers of possibility, chamber execs often find themselves on the edge of a thrilling and dangerous blade.  On one edge, there are so many tools and vehicles they want to grab hold of knowing they could be used to help their members.  On the other edge, the reality of insufficient funds and insufficient time holds them back.

The conversation generally goes like this… “I know if I could do X it would bring more benefits to my chamber and ultimately more revenue, but I don’t have enough time/staff/finances to do it.”  And there it is in one sentence, the round loop of “smallness”.  Facing this reality a lot of execs find themselves with two discouraging (for many) options, accept who you are, or go somewhere else.

The truth is, the cycle is more perceived than reality.  I know, this is where the reader is curling their fingers and steaming in their mind “but, but, but he doesn’t understand my situation”.  It’s not that I don’t acknowledge the problem, I don’t accept the traditional definition of organization.

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The truth is, our boundaries are only as small as we choose to define them.  Quick example, and it is crazy as a bat to make my point, but what if your chamber merged tomorrow with your nearest professional sports team.  That’s crazy!  Yes it is, but stay with me.  What would your new resources be?  What would it be like having access to their consumer database?  Their marketing resources?  Their regional exposure?  Would it give you access to new chamber members you never dreamed of?

Sometimes the most efficient way out of a bad cycle is to dramatically change your definition of organization.  Pick three organizations in your area you could partner with.  How would it change your organization?  How would it change theirs?

Take a mental walk, see where it leads…

 

Your Business, Winning, and the 2017 Dodgers

I love baseball.  When I was a kid I remember sitting on my couch watching Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.  The Dodgers were never going to win that game.  Our star pitcher, Orel Hershiser, wasn’t available because he had pitched Game 7 of the previous series.  Kirk Gibson was hobbled by old age, though the official injury read “knee”.  The A’s were stacked.  It was just a terrible match-up, until it wasn’t.  Kirk Gibson limped up to home plate, smacked a game winning home run, and the rest is history.

The game itself went down as one of the great games ever played.  But outside of the unlikely outcome and otherworldly heroics, it also personified an age-old axiom in baseball; one player, one moment, can be the difference between legend and goat.  It helps to shed light on why General Managers in baseball practice a model of business that hinges on two simple principles, snap shot measurement and the practice of “going for it”.

It’s a model that may rear its head in your business, and you should be afraid.worn-out_baseball

Baseball GM’s annually go through a ritual of All Start break calibration, taking a snap shot measurement of where their team is relative to the standings.  The purpose of this annual measurement is to asses if they fall into one of two categories, “buyers” or “sellers”.  If a team is in a position that gives them a realistic chance of making the playoffs, they will begin the process of surveying the league for potential players they can trade for.  Meanwhile, the opposite calibration is happening for teams less fortunate.  If they do not have a realistic chance of winning, they will begin looking to dump high priced players in favor of younger, cheaper “prospects”.  This dynamic drives the annual trade market every July in Baseball.

The teams with winning prospects will automatically assume the role of “going for it”, trading away prospects for players that can help them win now.  Sometimes it works.  Last year the Cubs gave up a haul of young prospects in exchange for hard throwing closer Aroldis Chapman.  They won the World Series.  In 2015 the Royals acquired Johnny Cueto for prospects and won the Series.  These moves indelibly notched the names of their GM’s, Managers and players in the history books.  But sometimes, history can have a cautionary tale.

Baseball, and sports in general, is a talent based exercise.  The best talent does not always win, but they almost always are part of the final group.  The “going for it” mentality by its nature loads a disproportionate amount of talent into a small window of time.  While it maximizes the probability of winning within the given window, it creates a vacuum for future years.  When a team depletes its farm system, or talent pool, in exchange for right now talent, it creates a void.  As the current players on a team begin to age, the organization is unable to replace them with up and coming young players because they traded them away.

Imagine you had a business that consistently generates $15,000 in net revenue.  Out of nowhere, you suddenly get a surge of demand for your product.  To handle that surge you order new equipment, new storage space, and additional headcount, you go for it!  You fulfill the orders, and your quarterly net revenue surges to $40,000.  You win big, right?  Yes, for the moment.  But what happens if the orders slow down or revert to their natural pattern?  Your stuck with debt, finance charges, and HR issues that could quickly erode whatever additional cash you earned and nosedive you into the red.

In that light, you can understand the insanity of the baseball culture when it is bounced against good business practice.  The 2009 Yankees were a great baseball team.  But years of trading away talent and absorbing astronomical baseball salaries depleted the team of future talent.  The result?  A historically great franchise hasn’t played in a World Series since.  Despite having one of the largest payrolls in sports, they have had four consecutive years of near .500 baseball with fan attendance falling in each of the last three years.

Then there are the Dodgers.  Andrew Friedman, the LA General Manager, has done something very un-baseball like over the last four years.  Despite winning the division in each of his three full years with the Dodgers, and having a realistic shot at winning a championship in each, he hasn’t traded his prospects for win-now talent.   Each year he has held his cards at the trade deadline, despite big name players being dangled in front of him for his prized young prospects.

The result?  A team littered with home grown talent, deep at every position, with a farm system stacked as high as a Doyle Brunson chip count.  Friedman has eschewed the “win now” philosophy and seems to have adopted something the business world can learn from.

Win forever.

How the business system Andrew Friedman has adopted will ultimately play out will be seen.  But for now, it appears someone in baseball has finally started doing something novel, running a team like you should run a business.

Regional Influence of GCVCC Being Felt

The All Valley Legislative Lunch held May 12th was not unlike many legislative events our valley hosts annually.  Local Assembly and State Senate members shared updates on pending legislation, current initiatives, and projects that are important to them.  There was some common ground, some not so common ground, and a broad array of ideas and visions for the future of our valley.

Oh yeah, and there was a leading candidate for California Governor on the stage.  Wait, what?

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Nearly a year ago the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce was formed to lend a strong regional voice to the business community in our valley.  At the time many involved in launching it saw clearly the need to bring together industry from across the valley in an effort to pool resources and work together on issues and opportunities that effect us all.  Our valley economy is a strong engine tied together by a diverse weave of events, agriculture, retail, hospitality, and tourism.  The more that diverse business base communicates, the more influence they have in shaping the valley’s future direction.

What may not have been so clear at the time of it’s formation was just how loud that voice would be – loud enough to reach Sacramento.  California’s economy is big, so big it would be the sixth largest in the world if stood alone.  Standing out in a business community that large can be tough.  And yet last Friday, on stage in front of 300 local Coachella Valley chamber members stood Antonio Ramón Villaraigosa, the 41st Mayor of Los Angeles and a leading candidate in the 2018 California Governors race.  How did he get there?  That is a story I will save for another conversation.  I can share this, he would not have been there if it were not for the formation and regional influence of the GCVCC.  That is a fact.

As our economy continues to get closer and more interconnected, regionally and globally, the ability to be a relevant part of the conversation is paramount.  What happens in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Franciso, and Sacramento impacts our valley.  The GCVCC understands that.  Our goal?  Whether it is a phone line 500 miles away, or a moderated stage 50 feet away, we will continue to be part of the conversation.

Joshua Bonner is President & CEO of the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce (GCVCC).  The GCVCC is the largest Chamber in Riverside County with over 1,400 dues paying members.  It officially represents the city’s of Cathedral City, Coachella, Indio and La Quinta, as well as the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians and the Twnety-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians.

“Bold” Shines at LQ State of the City

“A ship is always safe at the shore – but that is NOT what it is built for.”
― Albert Einstein

The recent La Quinta State of the City was a chance for the business community to tip their cap’s to the risk takers, and see on full display the rewards of forward-thinking.  SilverRock Resort certainly has not been a hasty project for the city, and as we are learning was never about rushing into the first available deal.  What it has proved to be is a display of innovation, patience, and a laser focus on building a development the city and our business community can be proud of.

When Mayor Evans announced form the stage last week a pair of luxury hotels through Montage International to be built at SilverRock Resort, it was big news.  The five star property will help to elevate the profile of an east valley hospitality industry that is finding its stride.  Long known for the world famous events that put it on the map, the communities that support those ventures are starting to build out the infrastructure necessary to fully capitalize on it.  In the long run, that will be good for the entire valley.  As we continue to see a push to build out the valley as a year-round destination, having venues and activities that last longer than a weekend will be a vital element to stimulating further development.

Watching the SilverRock development come to fruition, it is clear city leadership in La Quinta gets that.  “This news is game changing, not only for La Quinta but for the entire Coachella Valley,” said Mayor Evans.  Game changing indeed, and hopefully a well laid road map for others.  SilverRock is a great example of how private and public partnerships can work.  Even through the rough waters of a recession the City stayed the course, selecting a quality partner in The Robert Green Company.  That commitment is about to pay off big.

At The Chamber we have always enjoyed good working relationships with our city partners.  We work together to help create conditions that are conducive to economic growth through a variety of programs and services, and encourage more of the same across the valley.   From regional agencies like the Greater Palm Springs CVB and CVEP, to private equity partnerships like SilverRock, the way forward has always been together.

“When I look at economic development for the city and the surrounding communities, this could generate other developers to want to come in.”  Well said Madame Mayor.

Joshua Bonner is the President and CEO of the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce.  The Chamber is a business membership organization representing the Coachella Valley. We support our members through advocacy, education, networking, and other community based opportunities. The Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce is a registered 501c6 non-profit supported through member contributions.