February 8, 2009

BRAIN Gibberish

For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, BRAIN is Bicycle Retail And Industry News. It’s a magazine that I get at random intervals (without requesting it or, thank god, paying for it) which contains mainly poorly-written articles about new bike shops opening and ideas about how to sell bicycles to people.

In short, if you had a choice, you’d probably pick Ranger Rick or McCall’s to read while sitting on the can. Or a Count Chocula box. Anything but BRAIN. It’s awful.

But, because I have some kind of mental problem, I always read it anyway, or at least skim it. And the latest issue has what might be my favorite piece of unintentionally stupid writing ever. I can’t find it online, but I’ve reproduced most of the best bits here.

Entitled “Bicycle Industry Positioned Well for New Era of Frugality” (by the esteemed Gregg Bagni, who is apparently the president of a “business strategy firm focused on the enthusiast mindset”), this fine piece of literature is ostensibly intended to provide timely tips for running a healthy bike business during bad economic times, while adding some cheerful pep talk into the mix to get all our chins up. Unfortunately, it quickly goes off the rails:

-The tips for cutting costs include such gems as “Turn lights off, turn down the heat, use energy efficient transportation. You get the idea!” (note: these are *all* of the cost-saving ideas presented.)

Er. What? Are there lots of bicycle businesses out there who leave the lights on all night and the heat turned up to 85? This sounds like a great way to save a buck or two on your home utility bills (actually, come to think of it, maybe Gregg read about it in McCall’s himself) but not really a strategy for running a profitable business.

-The “Cash” section is equally hilarious. I quote:
“Cash means muscling through hard times or buying a weak and annoying competitor – cheap…today, high debt means you’re screwed.” (say the “muscling through” and “weak and annoying” parts like professional wrestling promoter Vince McMahon for extra emphasis!)

Well, that’s insightful. Wait, being in debt is bad? Having lots of money is good? Crap! I’ve been going about this all wrong! Watch out, my annoying and weak competitors (I’m looking at you, Rody and Steve)!

Section summary: “To run a good business, you should buy up bad businesses. But you should conserve your money and not go into debt, too.” Sounds like a good recipe for turning lots of money into much less to me.

-Next up is “Creativity” (my personal favorite).

“Now is the time to go overboard with creative, well thought-out approaches.”

This one steals a page from the old Simpsons joke about self-help tapes – “Get Confident, Stupid!” Unfortunately, “creative, well-thought out” things are in high demand at *all* times – if you’re weren’t doing them before, it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll start now.

“Do six things for customers at 120 percent efficiency instead of 12 at 60 percent!”

Mathematics: fail. Stupid motivational speaker boilerplate: fail. Good business advice: fail.

“Eschew borg-like consolidation; focus on individualism.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation: fail. Everyone knows that the borg DID become individuals after the “I, Borg” episode. Jeez.

Section summary: “I picked most of this stuff up from my JV basketball coach.”

-“Confusion” (the most aptly named section, and one which I produce here in it’s entirety for your edification and entertainment)

“Markets are a planetary paradox. What seemed safe is now risky; what was once risky now seems safe. Data and evidence don’t fit any model. But the upside of chaos could spawn a revolution in thinking. Don’t be afraid to be ahead of the curve. Stay agile, be alert and foster a sense of urgency.”

I don’t think I’d leave Gregg in charge of anything more difficult than coaching a peewee soccer team or feeding my cat while I’m out of town (and I’m unable to explain how he is the president of an actual company). How does something like this get published?

They should have run a counterpoint editorial (anyone know who said this?):
“I’ll keep it short and sweet – Family. Religion. Friendship. These are the three demons you must slay if you wish to succeed in business.”