Charged for running in the park

You’ll have heard, I’m sure, about the latest initiative from various councils to charge those people who use local parks as part of their personal training, yoga or  running business.

The apparent logic is that others have complained they are being pushed out….the currnet plan is £350 for individual one on one training or an annual licence of £1,200 for groups.

One group supporting it claims it will “ensure some kind of regulation”. Really? Why can’t that regulation apply at any venue?

It seems to me to be ironic that in the depth of recession and with a crumbling health service we should be keen to tax the entrepeneur trying to build new, “green” business and trying to better the health of the general population. 

So what about professional dog walkers, child minders, schools, football teams? 

What a shame we don’t celebrate those trying to make their way in difficult times, finding new ways to earn a living or indeed reward those who invest in their own health rather than adding to the health service burden.

Good grief Charlie Brown!

I’m getting old. I’ll be writing to the papers next.


Time to talk customer

You can’t have missed the fact that all the retail banks are getting hot under the collar about “Customer Experience”.  In fact businesses everywhere are starting to wake up to the idea that without the customer there’s no reason for them to exist at all.

This is not news for retailers (or at least most of them) or indeed any consumer facing business that has had to wage war in recent times against the dreaded commoditization of their marketplace and the hyper competition and market and margin erosion that ensues. It is however quite a slap round the chops for those businesses who thought that the people in businesses they sold to, were just a job role or that the product they made or service they offered was “enough” to differentiate them and build sustainable competitive advantage.

Now we’re seeing organisations of all types and sizes, serving markets of every description slowly coming to the realisation that everything starts with the customer.

Does it, really though?

You know, I think it does at least it does for organisations looking to stay ahead of the competition. It does also for businesses looking to create, maintain or even grow profit margins.

The problem for most businesses that operate Business to Business (B2B) is that their strategy really starts in the boardroom or even with the shareholders. The objectives set here (which let’s face it will be pretty predictable) are likely to bear more relation to the commercial intent of the owners than the requirements of the market and in some cases (even very, very big company cases) they are likely to bear no relation to the reality of what can practically be achieved. 

Only last week I heard of a large US conglomerate that took regional sales predictions, added 50% and then trebled them.. then pushed them back down to the regions as a sales target.  Yes Really.

The tsunami of trouble and cycle of doom these approaches cause is self-evident but it happens year on year.

The more enlightened organisations start their strategy with real customer insight and intimacy. It goes from here into the boardroom to determine what’s needed and what’s achievable and then out to the troops to take it back to the customers who asked for it. 

Does that sound too simple to be true? It’s not you know. It’s how the companies you see growing exponentially are doing it. It’s how start-ups succeed (or indeed by not doing it, why they don’t).

It works like a symbiotic, virtuous circle.  Customer, informing strategy, informing employee, informing customer, informing strategy and so on.

It’s not rocket science and that’s why it’s working for the companies you see today taking the market by storm.