Jewish World Review April 11, 2001 / 18 Nissan, 5761
Key to success? Keep your eye upon
WITH the stock market lately reeling and
stumbling as if it's drunk on rotgut liquor, and
with companies ranging from Fortune 500
stalwarts to once-hotly-promoted dot-com
startups casting employees overboard like so
many passengers on the Titanic, one does not
have to be a scholar of financial theory to realize
that we are in highly uncertain economic times.
Adding to the confusion is the inability of the "market analysts" -- the people
paid by brokerages and other financial institutions to decipher the meaning of
all this -- to make any coherent sense.
(What a scam those guys have going, anyway. They don't know; they guess.
They seem very self-assured, appearing on television business reports with
their expensive suits and authoritative voices, but they're basically voodoo
doctors. They ought to have bones through their noses and warpaint under
However, there has been one indicator in the financial news lately that -- if we
study it closely enough -- can lead us to an irrefutable truism about how to
succeed in American business.
The dot-coms are dying? The old-line manufacturers are gasping because of
miscalculations on markets and costs?
Is no one doing well? Is there not a single "business model" -- to use the
analysts' favorite phrase -- that can offer us some guidance?
Yes, there is.
While so many other American companies were morosely telling their
stockholders what putrid economic times we are living in -- and thus, how
poorly the companies have performed -- one American company had great
news in recent weeks.
Krispy Kreme announced last month that it had tripled its profits in the most
What Krispy Kreme does, of course, is sell doughnuts, in doughnut stores.
Based in Winston-Salem, N.C., Krispy Kreme's revenues grew by 36
percent last year, and sales in stores that have been open for more than a
year increased by an average of 15 percent.
So . . . what does this teach us?
The secret to success in business does not lie in coming up with confusing
technological advances that consumers can barely understand, and that will
be outmoded in six months anyway; does not lie in positioning your product
as "edgy" and "new wave" and "extreme," concepts that might delight
advertising agency creative directors, but that tend to scare mainstream
customers away; does not lie in coming up with yet another vague plan to
make communication via handheld devices even quicker somewhere in the
No, the secret -- or a secret -- to business success, now and always, is:
Sell something that people love even though it's kind of bad for them; sell it
relatively cheaply; and make sure it's a product that they will buy not just
once, but over and over.
Something like . . . say, a big, fresh, fat, hot doughnut.
The analysts on the cable financial reports won't put it exactly this way, but
the story of American business in 2001 can be summed up in a sentence:
What would you rather be selling -- a doughnut or a modem?
This is not to say that Krispy Kreme's recent success will last forever; if I
were the head man of Dunkin' Donuts (don't I wish), I would be a little
perturbed by all of Krispy Kreme's good news. Krispy Kreme, currently
hauling in all those profits, has only 178 stores, with annual sales of $300
million; Dunkin' Donuts has 5,200 stores worldwide (3,600 in the United
States), with annual sales of $2.1 billion. You get the impression that if
Dunkin' Donuts becomes annoyed, Krispy Kreme may be well advised to
call for the cavalry.
But the lesson is the same:
Sell people something they crave, something they know is vaguely not good
for them but that will not kill them on the spot; sell it to them for little enough
money that price is never a worry; and sell it in the form of a product they can
purchase today, and still want to purchase again tomorrow, and the day after.
The man who invents the next, even-smaller wireless data-transmitting
terminal that costs $1,200 and can fit in your shirt pocket may, for all his
effort, not have a long-term business hit.
The man who sells you a good doughnut will never go
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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