Thoughtful Perspectives on the Time Crunch and Trust Gaps, December 16, 2000

Reviewer: Donald Wayne Mitchell, from a management consultant in Boston
This is a most unusual book. It builds on contemporary consumer research to identify some new trends that are less well covered by the broad-scale media and suggest potential ways that businesses can respond. Although its selective focus keeps it from being a primary resource for all of your trend planning, the insights from where the authors look are useful.

I have never seen a book on trends that is quite like this one. It excludes demographic changes (such as the aging population, smaller families, and delayed child bearing) but includes the consequences of those changes (such as more people taking care of elderly parents). Go figure why that distinction makes sense. My guess that this is based on C. Britt Beemer's expertise being in consumer interviewing (to a carpenter, every problem looks like a nail, and s/he hits it with a hammer).

I was also surprised by what the authors considered not well covered by the media. One of the findings is that "The Number of 'Paper Millionaires' Is Mushrooming." I doubt if anyone will find that surprising in light of the rapid growth in the stock market over the last decade and burgeoning home prices. All of those books about millionaires that sell so well also make that point.

Are any of these news to you?

  • "The Gap Between the Haves and the Have-Nots Is Widening"
  • "Community Involvement Enhances a Company's Reputation"
  • "American Companies Cannot Expect Employee Loyalty -- They Must Earn It!"
  • "Consumers Are Reluctant to Pay Full Retail Price"
  • "Gaming Casinos and Lotteries Have Joined America's Mainstream"
  • "Home Offices and Telecommuting Are Redefining America's Workplace"
  • "There Is a Growing Obsession with the Internet"

The book is valuable, though, in documenting the degree to which people have a time crunch (time for family vacations, exercise, reading, television, and shopping are all down) and are skeptical (they find rudeness wherever they go and are doubtful about the goodwill of those they work for and who serve them).

The book makes a great case for providing brand name goods and services that take less time, are less error-prone, come with good advice and customized attention, and are rapidly available.

Small businesses will get valuable ideas for how to fend off the national chains with better service and differentiated branding. Larger businesses will learn ways to overcome the presumption of being uncaring.

The principle of the book is to be like Wayne Gretzky, the NHL's great scorer. "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been."

In pointing out these general trends, the authors pretty much leave it up to you to find out what you should do to respond. Some help is provided. For example, one finding is that "Today's Marketing Efforts Are Not Keeping Pace with Changing Consumer Demands," and they describe how you can conduct your own focus group with customers once a quarter to test your marketing effectiveness.

Naturally, a limit of this kind of book is that if every business pursues these same trends, then competition just meets at a new place. Greater profitability may not follow (as many dot coms found while pursuing the Internet trend described here) if competition over focuses on the new area. So be sure to develop an improved way to serve customers that others cannot easily duplicate or surpass.

You should probably read this book in conjunction with one about how to manage your business to take advantage of trends to get the most benefit. Keep looking ahead, but notice where you are and be ready for the unexpected!


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