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Views from the Prairie

July 16

Lessons from the Brexit Vote

What can we learn from the Brexit vote and the similar sentiments echoed in this country? The main lesson is to be as real as we can with our customers. It shows that there are some real social risks for companies from uncontrolled rumors. And there are some very real opportunities for those who can offer hope to those who have aspirations.

This vote shows that there is a lot of fear and anger among some people. Those emotions tend to make people more conservative. However, these emotions also lead to "flash actions" where a rumor or "news" is flashed to a wide number of people who then do stuff that they might never do in sober thinking and they might later regret (or serve time for). The "flash" always carries the implication that something must be done right away without checking its validity. Companies or products may be the target of such "flash action" and need to go into crisis mode to deal with that action. History is already full of cases where rumors about companies and products were passed around. Now, those rumors spread worldwide at a click of a button.

There was also a lot of "disbelieve what we have been told". "People in this country have had enough of experts." That cuts to the core of how we communicate to our prospective customers. People are not believing advertising. This is a result of so much advertising not matching the reality. For example, some pastry franchisees were found to have a sign saying that their pastries were hot when they were not. The managers had learned that when the sign was on, their sales went up. They were interested only in the profits, not in properly serving the customers. People have seen far too many ads that do not match reality. This is why "content" and personal recommendations are more effective today than advertising.

Another point is that there is a growing disconnect between those who have benefited from globalization and technology and those who have not. While it is true that we have had repeated disconnects in our society, most of those in the past have been between the aged and the young. That meant that over time, those disconnects would become less of an issue. This current disconnect is between different groups of our young people. Our culture cannot survive that kind of disconnect.

With this many people unhappy, there is a huge opportunity for companies to offer hope. There is an opportunity for those who can provide a path to benefit for those who want a better life. We already see for profit educational institutions trying to offer that (and often failing). Mary Kay was quoted as saying that her main product her company offered was hope. She built that empire on offering hope to those who had been outside the normal paths to success. Chick-Fil-A is another company that offers hope to their franchisees.

Let us offer hope to those who are struggling.

Border or Highway

Drive south from London England and one quickly runs into the English Channel. Similarly, drive south from San Antonio Texas and one runs into the Rio Grande. For the car driver or for armies, those are both obstacles. Yet, for those who live on them, those waterways are highways to profit. In many situations in business, what can seem like an obstacle can actually be the path to good profit.

For example, the British Empire was built not just on their armies, but on how well their navy controlled much of the shipping lanes around the world. The view that the English Channel was not an obstacle but a highway became the basis for many years of good profit.

For centuries, rivers have been used by central governments as boundaries while those who lived along them have used them for commerce. When the ground on either side is overgrown with trees and brush, going by boat is the fastest way around. Even today, shipping by barge can be cheaper than shipping by rail or truck but is falling out of favor since trucks and trains are far more flexible in pickup and delivery and often faster.

Those who live by the waters often have different attitudes than those who live inland. Venice, Holland, and other towns that made fortunes off of shipping had more open attitudes than elsewhere.

When we look at business, often the "borders" are inside the people we might hire. A recent Inc. magazine article highlighted a business that used autistic people to do many jobs. Their autism turned out to be an asset for certain jobs and when the job was molded to the person, they shined.

Risky World

The world of online video is wide and varied from the online courses from major universities to "the daily awe". However, there is no way to tell if many of those videos are real or if the people are telling the truth. Radicalization is spread through them. Recently, an Australian film company owned up to faking some special effects and posting them as real videos.


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