That has been a personal mantra of mine since 2000. It all started with thinking through the consumption of watered-down, flavorless, nauseatingly bad, massed produced American beer. When “University Joe” goes to the local liquor store and buys a 30 pack of Budlight, Miller Lite, or some other beer flavored water of this type, he is behaving like a consumer; namely, his desire is to avoid actually tasting the product (so, he makes sure it’s nice and cold in his ice chest), and to focus his energies on downing enough to get a buzz. What he doesn’t know is that he could spend the same amount of money for an excellent wine, a tasty micro-brewed beer, a fine French cognac or a delicious Italian grappa. Why do we settle with pumping our money into buying bad products?
We don’t just do this with alcoholic beverages. We do the same thing with clothes. If you want an excellent, well fitting suit in the U.S. you’re gonna be struggling to find it. We mass produce suits like beer. It’s interesting to compare American practices in self clothing to European practices. I’ve noticed during my time in France that a Frenchman would rather have 3 exquisite suits than 10 shoddily crafted suits. They may spend 3000 Euros on these suits. They could have purchased more suits for the same money, but they will not sacrificed quality. I find this so interesting because in the U.S. most men will find a suit that seems “reasonably priced” and then buy several of them, despite the fact that the fit is bad, the cut is mediocre, and the fabric is low quality.
Why am I ranting and raving about high quality spirits and suits? Because I think we can be challenged in the way we do business in 2 ways by this comparison. First, as you may recall from my very first post, consumers are increasingly discovering the fact that all of the things they are buying is not giving them the same level of satisfaction as it used to. They are increasingly buying products that are not just useful (to get a buzz or not be naked), but also gives them an experience that is meaningful or aesthetically evocative. Second, becoming a connoisseur can go a long way towards our own personal presentation. I love the blog The Art of Manliness. They seem to exist for the purpose of helping men becoming connoisseurs instead of consumers – educating on finding and buying a good suit, recommending high quality personal products (colognes, razors, etc), and even discussing the characteristics of being a high quality man. I’m sure that similar sites exist for women. Now imagine the difference between going to an interview with a well cut, high quality suit instead of a mass produced suit that would fit a box. People notice. I had about 5 people randomly stop me yesterday to comment on the cut or fit of my suit. Not because I’m so handsome, but because the suit it handsome (and I was able to find it for right around 400 U.S. Dollars). Or imagine hosting a potential client and offering them an exquisite wine as opposed to whatever fell into your price range at the local liquor store. Imagine more so if you can communicate a story about that drink. I hope to illustrate this in my next post, but until then, think through finding a high quality drink that will become your signature drink, and then sharing the story of that search. It will become what you offer to your high profile clients, that you offer to a co-worker to celebrate a business victory or a happy personal occasion, etc. Similarly, find a signature brand of suit if you like or a signature fountain pen…
The real point is this: Surround yourself with products that you believe in, that are meaningful. And produce things that are similarly meaningful. Letting meaning begin to shape your hiring practices, your HR practices, and even your strategy.