Venture capitalist and entrepreneur Mark Suster once shared an awesome pearl of business wisdom (via Kellblog): In a strong wind, even turkeys can fly – in his blog post of the same name.
This insight came from Mark Suster’s colleague Ameet Shah, a co-worker at Andersen Consulting in the late 90’s. Andersen Consulting was the largest independent consulting firm at the time, but amid scores of existing competitors and newly-funded Internet consulting startups…
…the market seemed crowded and our leadership position that had been built over many years seemed to not matter any more…[But] Ameet said to me, “Ah, I’ve seen this many times before. See, Mark, in a booming market you can never tell the winners from the losers. In a booming market buyers aren’t very discerning and companies that have weaknesses can mask them…Andersen Consulting always gains market share in down markets. That’s where the companies who are [only] good at marketing tend to crumble…Don’t worry, we’ll be fine, just wait for the next downturn.” That had never occurred to me. In other words, in a strong market, even turkeys can fly. (emphasis added)
A company that works to “gain market share in down markets” and seizes “the next downturn” as an opportunity is most certainly the opposite of a “flying turkey” business. I’d call it a “crow” business, referencing the amazing adaptability and intelligence of crows, as I have blogged previously.
I also suggest reading Jeffrey Fox’s book, How to be a Fierce Competitor: What Winning Companies and Great Managers Do in Tough Times – a great user’s guide on how to become a “crow” business.
Read on for a review of this great book along with more insights from Mark Suster’s great blog post.
Quick follow up: The photo taken by David Meerman Scott during his great Jan. 6 BPMA presentation (see next post) reminded me of a “Where’s Waldo?” picture, so congratulations to Dan McCarthy and Howie Lyhte who took me up on my challenge to find me in that photo. Since they both dropped me an email quite quickly (with my correct location), I declared them both winners.
For those of you playing at home, I am a couple of rows in front of the post holding my book with a thumbs-up.
Dan and Howie will receive David Meerman Scott’s new book we’re all holding up in the photo, Real-Time Marketing & PR, plus a great bonus book I will be reviewing here soon: How to be a Fierce Competitor by Jeffrey Fox. Enjoy, guys!
The good old “800 pound gorilla” metaphor came up in recent conversation, reminding me of a clever article I read a few years ago on the subject of animal metaphors, which are all too common in business-speak.
This company or that company is the “800 pound gorilla.” Another company might say it “strives to be an eagle in its industry.” And infamous ex-Sunbeam CEO “Chainsaw” Al Dunlap, who fired scores of workers with raw impunity, was partial to the mighty lion, adorning his office with a huge lion image, in honor of its predatory, eat-or-be-eaten carnivorousness.
I say, forget all of those animal metaphors. Instead, companies should strive to be the crow of their industry.