Let’s get engaged

Kerry Knudsen

Kerry Knudsen

Hunting gets a bad rap. Some of life’s great lessons come while hunting, and they rarely have anything to do with the kill. For example, it was only when I had spent days in a tree stand one winter, watching the woods, that it dawned on me the birds seldom came up to my level. I had always seen birds as denizens of the sky, yet winter’s juncos, finches, chickadees and nuthatches seem landlocked from a perspective above 20 feet. Only the ravens and raptors seem willing to soar.

A better example came one winter as I waited over a marsh where I had seen a huge buck. The woods are quiet beyond description in the snow, and the sound of one’s own breath is intrusive.

Shortly after sunrise, I heard the approach of a deer. It was a deer from the move-and-halt cadence, interrupted by cautious listening. Then, I heard it break the rime along the edge of the marsh. To my mind, this should not have happened, since I could see the edge all the way around, save a few leafless stalks of dogwood that extended into the water. Since that was where the sound was, I focused.

Close proximity to a goal, whether in business or in hunting, causes an interesting focus and clarity. That time, I saw what was clearly an animal drinking. The surface of the water was rippling lightly, just as a house cat’s bowl ripples as it drinks. However, while the water was rippling, there was no deer.

The animal stopped drinking for a long minute, then started again. Suddenly, my eyes blurred and refocused. Now I could see, not the deer, but the perfect reflection in the water of the deer as she drank. Knowing now what I was looking for, I refocused on the dogwoods, but with no luck. Returning to the reflection, there she was. There was one observer, two perspectives, and the “real” view was the false one. That may sound goofy to you, but it made an impression.

The doe was not the deer I was seeking, and there was no “real” shot anyway. However, I did not want to alert her and spoil the spot, so I watched until her hooves left the water in the reflection, disappearing into the air, only to reenter the water invisibly… and she was gone.

Right now, it seems to me the Canadian industry is beginning a “consolidation” phase. Our reader numbers are remaining the same, but my eyes see lots of newcomers – especially newcomers from developing countries. I also see very positive numbers in housing starts, remodeling expenditures, building permits and proposals for institutions and businesses. Another perspective sees a weak Euro Zone, a conflicted U.S., unrest in the Middle East and grief over the U.S.-led worldwide recession. Both perspectives are “right,” but most of us aren’t big enough to go both ways when the road splits.

It also seems to me that most of the growth in new Canadian construction is being managed by “builders,” or large companies that control all the buying, especially in new, residential surveys. Again, most of us aren’t big enough to go toe-to-toe against the builders, while some of us have managed to make a contact and get a piece of the pie. That’s business.

The big question facing the remainder is how to optimize our resources and pick up the also-increasing moderate-sized and custom business on the residential side, or to form relationships with contractors on the commercial and institutional side.

The tried-and-true method of growing once you have hit a plateau in your existing markets is marketing. This is easy-said, but tricky. A wrong approach not only misses the target, but costs valuable resources in people, time and money. It can be a killer.

The siren song for years, now, has been the internet, and marketers are marketing the internet like dogs chasing a raccoon in the dark: “it’s over here, guys; no, it’s up this tree, nope it went up the river….” Lots of enthusiasm, and no results, resulting in losses of people, time and money. Is anybody making money with CompuServe today? AOL? Or do you remember MySpace.com? Should you be on Facebook? Twitter? MSN Live? LinkedIn?

I understand the next wave is going to be a marriage of Google and Facebook. No joke. Google wants to “optimize” search by using social. Think about that.  The objective of search is to get you off the website as fast as possible – allegedly to an objectively obtained destination. The objective of “social” is to keep you engaged as long as possible. The problem is, when people are engaged, they don’t want a salesman stepping in the middle with an agenda. The analogy has been made to the overzealous salesman at a neighborhood cocktail party.

We have a marvelous search engine for our industry. It goes nowhere else, and you can get there by searching the Product Source Directory on www.woodindustry.ca. There, you can search for moulders and get 17 suppliers and 15 product briefs, all about companies and products you can get in Canada. Go to Google, and you get 1,770,000 hits. Since nobody believes any longer that Google is objective, where do you think your company will place in terms of Google pages from the front?

Don’t worry. I can see the facts. The deer is in the bushes, but we can’t take a shot. We can shoot, anyway, if we have the resources to pay for a miss. However, the market is actually out there, and if we don’t hit it, we go home wiser, but unsuccessful.

From my perspective today, the world keeps turning. There are business opportunities across Canada as houses go up, old houses are renovated, businesses turn over and the government grows. (Sorry. I tried to keep this one non-political.) There is a new industry in special-interest community newspapers, especially in immigrant communities. That is a targeted audience.
We have covered the issue of marketing recently, so won’t repeat it. However, it’s a new year, the economy is moving, the recession is yesterday and the media remains worthless. You are on your own.

I never got that buck. The marsh froze, I pulled down my tree stand and I have never been bowhunting since. Life is what happens to you while you are making plans. Twenty years have passed, though, and I still carry each minute of that morning with me. And, once in a while, when a life problem finds me, I stop and remember not to believe everything I see, to focus on the big picture and to trust myself first.

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