Information Requirements

I was playing golf with fellow today who runs a company that makes coffee creamers, milk and cream in the little plastic containers.  So decided to interview him to see if I could find out his information requirements.  I was truly amazed how unaware he was of his information needs.  In all fairness I did not tell him what I was doing, only that I was interested in his business.  I am always surprised at the little subculture that exists in the business world.  He lives in a world of people who produce and buy coffee creamers. 

I asked him how he found out what was going on in his industry and he said from magazines but then said he did not read them.  I ask him if he used any information services and he said D & B would come to get information and he would not cooperate because he said his information was better than theirs.  I ask him where he got it and he got information from his customers.  Then I realized he was talking about credit information so I asked him how critical that was for his business and he waffled on that.  He said he thought he did better than the banks and that was their business.

He alluded to the fact that inventory was a big part of his cost.  He said that this time of year it is hard to predict how many creamers people will buy because it is so dependent on the tourist business.  I guess they keep their inventory high this time of year.  However he said the inventory turns were high.  I asked him his annual rate and he did not know but guessed at maybe twenty.  I suspect he is not very close to his business.

I asked him how he knew how he was doing and he said the monthly P&L.  I said that really did not give a very clear picture and he agreed.  He said he got some other reports but the company of which he has a franchise gives him what they want.  They are apparently the only franchise because of historical relationships.  I think he inherited the business from his father.

I asked him about pricing and how did he know what the competitors, like Sysco, were charging.  He said that they do not have a fix price and could be charging different customers different rates.  They want to be a bit unpredictable.

I was amazed how difficult it was for me to get a clear picture of the information he uses to run his business.  I do not know whether he was being cagey or just ran it the way is Dad ran it.

He also said they grab castoff production machinery from other producers to keep their costs down.  They clearly pride themselves in keeping the capital expenditures low. 

Just reminded me how difficult it is for people who make their stock and trade information to put themselves in the world of our clients and then translate what they say in our terms.  Now he was not looking for help so his thoughts were not well developed.  I wonder how ready he was, not very, I suspect.   He was also having a hard time with his golf game which might explain some of my inability to discern his use of information.

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