Identify your arch nemesis

I just attended this year's PRSA Counselors Academy Spring Conference.

I've belonged to the Academy for at least 15 years and believe it to be the single, smartest professional development I've ever made.

I always seem to take away a gem of an idea or two that make me and my firm just a little bit better. And this year's conference was no different.

June 3 - geek-squad2 Monday's keynote speaker was Stephen Roberts, founder of Geek Squad, a 24,000 employee strong, global tech support company. Despite being a self-confessed geek, Roberts is way cool. And, way smart. And a big believer in public relations. He thinks "advertising is the price you pay for being unremarkable." He sees PR as the real deal since reporters have to be convinced your story is of value to their readers, viewers or listeners or else it ends up in the circular file (virtual or physical).

Roberts shared his views on how he created and expanded his company and how he keeps it authentic. He also told us what keeps him up at night: the fear that a newer, hipper, more cost effective competitor will appear unexpectedly and steal market share.

To prevent (or forestall) that from happening, he's in the process of creating the Geek Squad's 'arch nemesis.' Check this out: he's literally creating the business model for a company that would compete with his own. He's anticipating everything from virtual service models to lower pricing structures. How cool is that? It's a 2009 version of Clayton Christianson's disruptive technology strategies of eight to 10 years back.

And, it got me thinking.

When I conjure up images of an arch nemesis, brands like Edelman, Weber and other aircraft carrier types come to mind. But, then, I think, nah: Peppercom's real arch nemesis is some start-up or some hybrid model I'm not thinking of. The traditional firms won't be the big winners in a few years time. And, it may not be the independent midsized firms either. In fact, it may not even be a PR firm.

I have no idea who my arch nemesis is (or will be), but I do know that I want to devote several hours of our upcoming management retreat to think long and hard about the type of agency I'd create today if I wanted to take away Peppercom's market share tomorrow.

And, that my friends, is why I belong to the Counselors Academy.

10 thoughts on “Identify your arch nemesis

  1. Thanks Eric. I totally agree. Our arch nemesis either doesn’t exist yet or is already on the drawing board. Whoever they are, they will arrive suddenly and without warning. The challenge is to anticipate what they’ll bring to the plate that we don’t already offer.

  2. I’ve always pictured PepperCom as our arch enemy 😉
    Great post, Steve…I agree totally.
    In fact, our future “enemy” may not even exist today. I wonder…

  3. Lunch, if you want a great non-fiction read, pick up “River of Doubt.” It’s about Teddy Roosevelt’s discovery of a new river in the Amazon Basin. Amazingly brutal trip that nearly killed him and proved fatal to many on the expedition.

  4. I meant your comedy website! I owe you a book read, I guess. Name a book that you like and let me at it.

  5. I haven’t finished it yet, Lunch. It’s the year 1843 and the plot is getting a tad more interesting. The fantasy part is a bit of a turnoff, though. What’s the website url?

  6. Have you finished the book? I thought, knowing how much you love history and adventure, that you would really enjoy the story. Maybe it’s becuase you’ve fallen too hard for non-fiction?
    I like the website, too, btw.

  7. Thanks Lunch. No offense taken. I hope you won’t take offense in return if I report that I’m less than thrilled with your all-time favorite book “Forever.” I guess beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.

  8. Thanks for the comment, Greg. Based upon their performance over the past three decades, I don’t think the Jets have been listening.

  9. Terrific blog Steve And that’s, in effect, something I always asked NFL coaches when I was covering the New York Jets beat in the seventies. Forget about developing a game plan. Look at yourself. If you’re defense is playing this set up, from an offensive standpoint what are their weaknesses? Don’t you think the opponent will attack you the same way?
    And the reverse is true, too. Where are you vulnerable on offense? If the defense takes your weakness away, it leaves you one-dimensional and they can plan for that.
    Good luck.

  10. Very thought provoking post, Rep.
    “…advertising is the price you pay for being unremarkable.” is an awesome quote and simply put/delivered truth.
    Perhaps, you should invite some rank and file and outsiders to your retreat in order to learn what’s on their mind in terms of creating an arch nemisis. Robert Sutton, a professor at Stanford has claimed that “90% of Management Advice is Crap”…check it out. It was a good read. (and no offense to Peppercom’s management, of course)