Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Command and Control in Urban Planning

Dallas is trying to buy culture.

Over the past few years Dallas has been building The Dallas Arts District, the “largest arts district in the nation, spanning 68 acres and 19 contiguous blocks.”  The venues include museums and performance halls.  It’s an impressive show of public initiative.  And the buildings are beautiful.

But there’s nothing to put in these beautiful buildings.

Well, technically, there is.  There is the Dallas symphony, and some other exemplary performance organizations.  I don’t want to take anything away from them.  But the fact remains that Dallas is a city of real estate deals, expensive cars, and big diamond wedding rings.  Buying museums is not going to change Dallas into a cultural Mecca. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if the previous facilities, pre-Arts District, had been overflowing with grass roots culture?  If there had been a cry for the new buildings before they were built because current venues were at capacity?  Then we would have been in a true market driven situation where demand meets supply.  

I keep thinking of the highways to nowhere you hear about in China.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hubris Will Kill You

There’s a new competitor in town, so I did an analysis of their strengths and weaknesses and gave my report to the CEO I was working with.  In our meeting I told him that the new entrant is better than his company in one key competency.  I suggested that we meet with them to see if we could find a way to work together.  It would be better to be their friend than their arch rival. 

I must have hit a soft spot because the CEO blew up at me, proclaiming that I was underestimating his abilities.  Note that he said his abilities.  He was taking it personally.  He didn’t want to work with them because he thought they would overshadow his firm.  This competitor will take market share away from the CEO I was talking to.  I have no doubt about that.  Getting angry is not a smart strategic move. 

Know that you have weaknesses.  Identify them and embrace them.  Otherwise you will fight battles you are bound to lose.            

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Objective Positioning

A friend of mine told me I had built a house of straw that would be destroyed by the competition.

Now for a little background.

O'Brien & Associates is a commercial architecture firm that is known for it's "practical" design.  In other words, it doesn't design a building that looks really cool, but is too expensive to ever be built.  There is, however, a market out there for building designs that are almost too expensive to be built.  This market segment would include design competitions for museums, opera halls, important municipal buildings, etc.

So I've been working on a flanker brand for O'Brien & Associates to tap into this market.  The brand is called O'Brien Design Studio.  The talent is in place.  I've finished the web-site (www.obriendesignstudio.com) and the marketing collateral.

But I was losing sight of what the product actually was.  For example, I had put on the website a list of clients we'd worked with from the "old" O'Brien & Associates in an attempt to leverage relationships.  This is business plan stuff.  A list of old clients would only confuse prospects.  The new offering has an incredibly small portfolio, thus the "house of straw."  

I was trying so hard to make the offering work that I had taken my eye off the actual product.  And it was showing up in my copy.  My friend put me in my place.

When positioning your new offering, run it by a completely objective set of eyes.  You may be amazed at what you hear.