Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." Albert Einstein

There are so many choices these days. Virtually anything that requires you to make a decision means that you have to sort through way too many options. From the clothes you pick out to wear for the day to the bike you choose to ride, sometimes it's just too hard to figure out. If you are a guy, you can just sniff the pits of the shirt you wore the previous day and if it's not too bad, throw in on for another day. No one will notice.

I came across this article yesterday in the Marin IJ. However, I don't think the writer fully understood Albert Einstein's meaning when the writer quoted, "Make everything as simple as possible." Making everything as simple as possible means making everything simple. The writer is equating Einstein's simplification with a means to eat healthy and exercise. However, in the article, he advocates getting rid (okay, donating) of your old clothes and buying new ones to exercise in. Somehow, I don't think Einstein would advocate that. I'm pretty sure, he would say just do it with what you have. In fact, that famous photo of him tooling around on his bike pretty much sums it up. Just do with what you have. And if you have too much, get rid of what you don't need. The author paraphrased Einstein's quote which, in its entirety is, "make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler."

I recently went through all of my cycling gear and made a huge pile that will get donated to Trips for Kids' Recyclry Thrift Shop. I also went through all my street clothes and pulled out everything I hadn't worn in the past year and donated it all at our recent Recycle Circus. I'm now down to a handful of good stuff that I wear, use, and appreciate. I challenge more people to do the same. Who needs 100 pair of socks? No one.

Simplification is also something I'm in the process of instituting at the shop as well. Simplification? You've only been open 8 months. What do you have to simplify? Plenty. There are some things I've purchased for the shop that were to test the waters. What sold, I bought more of. What didn't sell because something else sold better, I don't reorder. This way, I can have a more focused product supply. I've got a bit more to do to simplify the product mix.

I knew I had to simplify and be more focused. At my previous company, focus was something that I had always felt was lacking. We were constantly trying out the waters on whatever different bike the sales department thought we could sell. So, I'd spend a lot of development time to bring a new bike to market to see it do well in the short-term, but gradually fall to the way side.

Focus. Too many companies lack focus as they try to be everything to everyone. Most bike shops are the same. Trying to cater to every category can only dilute your ability to sell strongly to whoever is in your shop at any given time. If you are passionate about something - do it and you will do it well. My favorite fast food is In-N-Out Burger. They do burgers and they do them fantastic. No chicken. No chalupa-ditos. No salads. They're focused.

Grant Petersen came into the shop not too long ago. We got to talking about focus and he was pointing out the exact areas of the products I have that aren't focused - or where I have too many options. And he is right. I've got too many choices in arm and leg warmers. Too many choices in tires, LED lights, grips... Like my closet, I need to whittle down the stuff I have in the shop for sale. Pick the right stuff, stuff I like and use myself, and stick with them. Why did I order 4 Michelin Axial Pro road tires? I don't even particularly like Michelin tires. Guess what my first sale will be on.

Grant picked up a couple of things - notably a couple of Aardvark reflective yield symbols. These have been pretty good items to have in the shop. I've reordered several times. Seems lots of folks, me included, want to be a bit more visible on West Marin's sun dappled country roads. But before he left, he wrote down the name of a book he was passionate about recommending. Said, to get it now, don't wait. Focus by Al Ries. I'm in the middle of reading it and, yes, everyone who works in a buisin....no, everyone needs to read it. It applies not only to business, but to life.
(What's playing: Nothing, but I'm going to shut this down and continue reading Focus)


Eric said...

Mike, I like the "focus" theme. On a similar note, a few years back I read a book called "Differentiate or Die" (I can't remember who wrote it). The book espoused the need to set one's business apart from other by offering something unique or different from the competition. If your shop is exactly like every other shop, why would a customer choose your shop over any others?

I think that focusing combined with differentiation is the key to success. You can't be everything to everyone, but you can sure be everything to a select group. That group will be your repeat business and core customers.

Nice entry today.

blackmountaincycles said...


Differentiate or Die by Jack Trout, who, coincidentally, co-authored several marketing books with Al Ries.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think the real quote by Einstein might have been "It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience" and he was likely referring to what makes a good theory in physics. See http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein