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Sunday, July 15, 2012
Volume 18 | # 412
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Success is often the result of taking a misstep in the right direction. » Al Bernstein

Old Neighbor, New Friend

We’ve been living in our current home for 9 years. I know most of my neighbors very well.

But the folks in the house directly cater-corner from mine are people I’d never spoken to in the 6 or so years they’ve lived there. You can see their front door from mine.

The dad in the house often mows their lawn at the same time I do, and we’ll occasionally give each other a head nod when we make eye contact. I’m not even sure why we never talked, but I’m sure it’s his fault.

And after a while, it just seems odd to walk over and say, “Hi. We’ve lived next to each other for a half decade. How ya’ doing?”

I had even joked with my wife recently about how bizarre it is that we didn’t know those folks at all. They look normal. Both parents appear to work and my guess is that their son is in high school and the daughter is off at college. That’s just a guess from random observations over the years.

My wife even asked if I had done anything to make that guy mad years ago. Nope. My conclusion: He must be a jerk.

Then last Sunday, my wife decided that she wanted a new TV stand for the game room. So, we headed over to a local warehouse store and had them load a large box with the TV stand into my truck.

When we got home, I realized that getting that thing from my truck to the upstairs game room was going to tax my back and patience. It was about 90 degrees and threatening rain.

As we were beginning to wrestle the box from the truck, a voice behind me said, “Hang on. Looks like you can use some help.” I turned around to find my mystery neighbor walking up.

He was driving by (as other neighbors had), witnessed our soon to be moving fiasco, and pulled over to help.

I replied, “Oh, no, that’s okay. We’ve got it.” (We really didn’t.)

He insisted. I then had to say, “Man, I’m sorry for having to ask this, but what’s your name?” He laughed and told me, “Gary. What’s yours?”

Over the course of the next 10 minutes, Gary broke a sweat helping me move furniture. We chatted about kids, sports, and home repair.

We shook hands as he left, and I felt both good and a little embarrassed. I felt good that I had a new friend. I felt bad that I let it take 6 years to happen. One nice gesture was all it took.

And now, he’s one favor up on me. The jerk. (Kidding.)

How many new friends can you go “one up” on in the nice gesture column today? Let’s find out.

Avoid the Blackberry Patch

When preparing new slides for a presentation this week, I came upon a column on by Bill Fischer about the current train wreck that RIM has become.

RIM is the maker of Blackberry mobile devices and was the clear 800-pound-gorilla of that industry not long ago. These days… not so much.

Their market cap is down 95% from its high, losses are growing, and product releases are delayed.

During presentations, I often pull my bank-issued Blackberry from my pocket. I tell folks that I am sure of one thing whenever I see anyone pull out a Blackberry. I know someone else is paying for it.

Believe me, I’m not a Blackberry hater. They revolutionized an industry and became valuable and reliable tools to millions. Their maker, RIM, enjoyed a heck of a run and increasing profits until 2011.

That fact jumped out at me. While Blackberry’s market share was dropping like a stone, they were still very profitable - until they weren’t.

Sure, the rest of the world could clearly see that iPhone and Android type devices were consumers’ growing preference. But it’s hard for any company to accept that the products or strategies or business models that have brought it great success and profit aren’t going to do it anymore.

Companies like RIM begin focusing more energy on defending what they’ve always done than in attempting to adjust to their new competitive environments.

And as long as they were profitable, their tried-and-true way was defensible - until it wasn’t.

When sharing these kinds of examples with bankers, I’m not suggesting that our industry will experience market place disruption at the speed that handheld devices have. That said, that particular industry’s transformation is one of the leading factors in the changing of our own playing field.

There is a tendency for front line bankers and even managers to say, “Well, sure, we see the days coming where the branch isn’t the center of the banking world anymore. But that’s what senior management gets paid to worry about.” Really?

Branches are becoming less relevant to the banking preferences of customers. Whether or not bankers concurrently become less relevant depends on our industry’s actions.

Whether or not you personally remain relevant to customers in your world depends on your personal engagement with them.

How relevant will you keep -or make -yourself?

The question isn't, "Who is going to let me;" the question is "Who is going to stop me? » Ayn Rand

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