Goose Food/Gander Poison

Posted by on August 21, 2013

A Monday Morning Memo from The Wizard of Ads

“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” might be true in goose ranching, but it’s not a valid concept in business. Strategies, concepts, and technologies which are proven winners for big companies are often counterproductive for smaller ones. What’s good for the big corporate goose, can be poison to the independent gander.

Three examples of goose food/gander poison are the concepts of a media mix in advertising, math-based goal setting, and long range planning.

Are you still reading? Wow! I thought you would have thrown this Memo away by now. Since you’re still with me, I’ll try to explain.

There is a lot of truth in the religion of Media Mix, but it is a truth inappropriate for the small business owner. The idea of a media mix assumes your advertising budget is sufficient to do a good job in each part of the mix. Coke, Pepsi, Chevrolet, Procter & Gamble and the other big boys are able to accomplish a media mix without being forced to compromise any part of it. They can mix radio, television, newspaper, magazines, and sky writing without having to do anything halfway. Is this true of your company? Do you have this kind of budget? If not, I suggest that you do one thing well rather than two things badly. You may be able to do two things well, but I’ve never worked with a company who could do three things well. But then I’ve never worked with anyone who had more than a couple million dollars to spend on advertising.

Math-based goal setting provides structure and direction for large companies who need a common denominator to measure their own progress against that of their competitors, and to compare the progress of different divisions within their own company. Their goals involve numbers and more numbers. Numbers everywhere. Percentage growth targets tied to calendar dates, sales goals tied to bonus plans, ratios of new stores open to old stores closed, and this week’s stock price compared to last week’s. While numbers might speak to the soul of corporations and the needs of stockholders, they play a much smaller part in the drama of privately held companies and independent business owners.

Long range planning may be the goose that lays the golden eggs for big companies, but it can be the wild goose of the proverbial “chase” for small ones.

The only advantage of smallness in business is the ability to respond quickly to the opportunities of a changing marketplace. You can get your goose cooked if you commit to an inflexible, long range plan in a small, nimble company! Rarely have I seen a small business five year plan that had any value at the end of eighteen months. My friend Joe Romano, a gifted, professional planner, says, “The flexibility of a plan must increase in direct proportion to the smallness of the company.” Improperly done, long range planning is just one more pitiful attempt to make life into a predictable science.

Roy H. Williams

Leave a Reply