Metzgers Keeping It Real

future200Quality Over Quantity

Another blistering summer has come and gone, and with the approaching autumn my thoughts once more take on a certain grey, blustery chill.

Borders Books’ flagship store in Ann Arbor is no more. (Poet/don’t even know it.) I’ve spent many hours at that store over the past two decades, and rarely left without purchasing something. The internet is abuzz with commentary regarding the company’s management missteps, along with varying opinions about the relative values of books and e-readers. If Borders’ story is to be viewed as a cautionary tale, the spot where rapid growth and rapidly-changing technologies intersect could be considered the epicenter of the primary conflict.

And so today I present the following collection of thoughts relating to “progress,” both in general and here at Metzgers.

Change/Progress

“Change is good.” Progress is good. All change is not progress. Improve the “wrong” thing and you may find all manner of unintended consequences to deal with down the road, potentially leaving you worse-off than before. If you require proof on a grand scale, poke around the past fifty years of American history. There are plenty of examples from which to choose.

Old photo of Steve and his Grandmother
The author and his grandmother at the Paramount Theatre demolition, Downtown Toledo, 1965.

The Old Coke, New Coke, Old Coke Cliché

We’re all familiar with Coca-Cola’s 1985 blunder. There is a significant segment of the population that forms an emotional attachment to the status quo because it ”works for them.” Businesses “mess with success” at their own peril. Convincing people that they need something they aren’t even sure they want is usually a tough sell anyway. If you require proof on a grand scale, poke around the past fifty years of American history. There are plenty of examples from which to choose.

Early Adapters

People who were “ahead of the curve” and purchased American subcompact cars right before the Arab oil embargo in the early 1970s got the Vegas and Pintos that folks still recall grimly. Of course, you’ve heard the Sony Betamax saga too many times already. And many early, expensive compact discs revealed considerably less than optimum sound when placed in early, expensive CD players. Now, are you ready? Who wants to go first? (Someone has to....)

Car exploding
A Ford Pinto “having the bugs worked out”

Late Adapters

Conversely, “he who hesitates” (or is just a little slow on the uptake) may encounter something like this: Do we really need another (fill in the blank)? Recall your product life cycle; it generally applies across the board, whether it’s a communication device, diet, TV show or musical act. Once innovators and a few close followers have made their killings, a vast majority of the rest will lapse quickly into deserved obscurity, making perhaps one more brief “ironic” appearance at some point in the future before disappearing forever, like Britny Fox.

Picture of Britny Fox
Britny Fox: A little slow on the uptake

Baby; Bath Water

Yes, eventually a business plan gets stale, like the proverbial 19th Century bath water. Be sure to identify and protect your “baby” before rectifying that situation.

“Quality” as a Marketing Term

Everything old is new again, sort of... Less than a decade ago I was reading article after article about how the overuse and misapplication of the word “quality” in marketing materials had reduced it to a mere platitude with no real value conveyed by its presence. It’s nearly 2012 now. Think about the “quality” of the TV journalism you see, the “quality” of spoken or written English you encounter, the “quality” of customer service you experience throughout the week. If “quality” started showing up in ads and mission statements again, would anyone take it seriously? It’s a toss-up.

The Past Decade: Virtual = Faux

Let’s face it: “virtual” is pretty much a synonym for “not really.” If we’d just honestly substitute the word “fake” for “virtual,” we’d be a lot less impressed by some of the strides we’ve made. However, he who wishes to remain profitable would be wise to note that there are plenty of people (with plenty of money to spend) to whom this is a total non-issue.

Picture of a stand-alone record player cabinet
A “virtual orchestra” performs in the author’s living room!

New and/or Improved

If it’s new, it may or may not be an improvement. If it’s not an improvement, it had better be priced accordingly. If your product is suddenly made out of a less durable material to save weight, or if it’s suddenly uglier because your designers have gotten lazy or have gone chasing after an unfortunate trend, you may be able to squeeze money out of people who don’t know any better or don’t care, but I may not be one of them.

Keeping It Real

After reading all of this, you might think I am entirely resistant to change and I abhor anything new. Au contraire. The internet features more well-written, well-presented and useful content all the time (along with more garbage). My music collection, which used to tip the scales at a thousand pounds or more, now weighs 0.000 ounces. I can locate and obtain “exotic” items from all over the globe (even China!) without getting out of bed, a power formerly reserved for monarchs and Vanderbilts.

Here’s the thing: At Metzgers, we don’t hang around flat-footed and wait for things to happen so that we can react; this is a proactive organization. And we wouldn’t want to be the last ones on the planet left doing anything “the old way” if it isn’t what’s best for our customers. But we truly do a great job of changing what needs to be changed while leaving the best of the rest intact. We’ve proven this repeatedly over the past thirty years. If anyone knows that change is inevitable and best dealt with sooner than later, it’s Joe and Tom Metzger.

We’re always moving forward and we know that our good reputation precedes us; we just try not to run over it getting ahead of ourselves.

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