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Opinion Editorials

Mediocrity Is No Longer In Fashion

Five Guys have built their business by offering a commonly-available product that is better than the competition, but is not priced so much more than the competition as to be out of reach for the “common man.” … Do some quick market research and see what people are saying about McDonald’s , the quintessential example of commodification and then compare that to the chatter about Five Guys . Five Guys rock Which one do you want to be – McDonald’s ( not that there’s anything wrong with that ) or Five Guys?

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I had lunch at a Five Guys last week; coincidentally on the same day I had read this excellent post; like ketchup and vinegar, I made the connection – housing’s commoditization through poor quality product may be over.

Up until 2006 mediocrity was OK and sellable at least at a mediocre rate. … A mediocre product will return a mediocre profit when the market is good. When the market turns south and it’s time to go into survival mode…mediocrity will lose every time, as has been evidenced time and time again.

Five Guys have built their business by offering a commonly-available product that is better than the competition, but is not priced so much more than the competition as to be out of reach for the “common man.” There is a reason their growth and success rate is so remarkable – they do a few things – burgers and fries, and do them very well.

Buyers seem to want smaller, smarter space that is put together with a high degree of quality – better flooring, cabinets, countertops, smoothly mitred corners – and this new market allows them to demand this quality. Notably, many are also ready, willing and able to pay for said quality, and they are willing and able to wait for this whatever it is that they want.

Mediocrity had its place when the market was smoking hot – builders could vomit up hundreds of homes, demand (and get) premiums and move on to the next landscape demanding to be decimated. No longer.

Do some quick market research and see what people are saying about McDonald’s, the quintessential example of commodification and then compare that to the chatter about Five Guys.



Which one do you want to be – McDonald’s (not that there’s anything wrong with that) or Five Guys?

Dad, Husband, Charlottesville Realtor, real estate Blogger, occasional speaker - Inman Connects, NAR Conferences - based in Charlottesville, Virginia. A native Virginian, I graduated from VMI in 1998, am a third generation Realtor (since 2001) and have been "publishing" as a real estate blogger since January 2005. I've chosen to get involved in Realtor Associations on the local, state & national levels, having served on the NAR's RPR & MLS groups. Find me in Charlottesville, Crozet and Twitter.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Poppy Dinsey

    July 23, 2008 at 5:27 am

    This post has made me unspeakably hungry, we don’t have Five Guys in Europe but I need to get me one of these bad boys for lunch. Stat. Oh and as for mediocre…yeah mediocre is lame. Now pass the ketchup.

  2. Matt Stigliano

    July 23, 2008 at 5:51 am

    I saw a great example of mediocrity in my neighborhood recently. Builder built two houses on a bit of land. From the outside I just knew I had to see these houses. When I previewed them the layout was great and looked similar in design to a builder I think is top notch. But upon close inspection the house was full of “mediocre” work. The builder built a luxury home, but with bargain basment costs in mind. Sad part is he’s selling them for top dollar and to be honest I don’t think he can or will (they’ve been on the market awhile now). If you’re going to spend top dollar you would certainly eant stellar work, something you’re not going to get in these two houses. Makes me sad to see, but it is the reality of the “building boom” where every Tom, Dick, and Harry saw money in building and decided to give it a shot.

    As my wife always says, “You’ve got one job to do, at least do it right.”

  3. Matt Wilkins

    July 23, 2008 at 6:22 am

    Jim:

    First, I will just come out to say that I LOVE Five Guys (and it doesn’t hurt that there are 3 of them in my town).

    I agree with mediocracy in a hot market but you also have to look at examples of the same thing in a slow market. My market went through a huge slowdown in the mid 1990s. Many high end home builders that were big in the late 1980s and early 1990s either completely went under or changed their strategies. One of the things they did was to use lower costs materials so they could sell homes at the lower market price and still make a profit.

    THere’s a fine line that any business has to walk between holding the highest standards and keeeping the doors aopen and the operation profitable.

  4. Jason Sandquist

    July 23, 2008 at 6:29 am

    Uh… yeah that burger looks unbelievable.

    The ‘cookie cutter’ houses are finally disappearing, slowly but surely the builders are choking on there vomit. Mediocrity should never be accepted, not in this business. I have seen so many shotty work on houses, ie: putty for corners, floors that squeek when they are freshy built, siding that wasn’t installed right, drywall mud that looks like crap, the list goes on and on. Homeowners shouldn’t have to deal with so many call backs in the first year.

    My vote goes for Five Guys

  5. Paula Henry

    July 23, 2008 at 7:22 am

    I am a big fan of In-and-Out and now will have to scope out Five Guys locations.

    The one certainty I have noticed with todays buyer is, they are either looking for unique and quality or a fixer where they can put their own quality and unique touches into the home. There is rarely an in-between home buyer who is just looking for a home.

  6. Matt Stigliano

    July 23, 2008 at 7:44 am

    Jason – How did you know the builder I referenced used putty for corners? Man, you’re good. Best part is, he let the putty dry and crack and it was crumbling as he showed me the great windows he put in (about as cheap as the ones on my 1986 built house). The property is listed for over $300,000 which in San Antonio will get you some nice places…not so much on this one.

    Paula – You mentioned In-And-Out. I am officially jealous. I miss Los Angeles for that alone. Well that and Baja Fresh. And Poquito Mas. And the Rainbow (best cheese sticks on the planet…I guarantee it). Dear San Antonio, please give up on your Whataburger obsession. Thanks, Matt.

  7. Vicky Henry

    July 23, 2008 at 8:04 am

    The burgers look great! Wish they had a Five Guys in a Owasso Oklahoma. Whole hearted agreement here in Tulsa OK. I am starting to hear this more and more in all price ranges but the upper-end specifically. People walk into a $300,000 home they expect to see higher quality on the inside as well as the outside. And guess what? The average “joe” does know the difference.

  8. Matthew Rathbun

    July 23, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    FIVE GUYS ROCKS!!!! Worst thing that every happened was working in an office next door to a Five Guys. The customer service and the food is outstanding. I’ve actually used the McD’s versus Five Guys analogy in customer service oriented classes. Quality is as important to a hamburger eater, as it is to a steak eater.

    With fast food I have low expectations, already. So if I’m treated poorly with already low expectations, it’s really bad. I don’t go back…

  9. Upstart Agent

    July 23, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    I think you’ve really summed it up pretty well, especially the line “vomiting up homes” – we have a few plans in the area by some of those mediocre builders that once sold in days, now sit on the market for several months, price reductions, and seller tears.

  10. Erin Fogarty

    July 24, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Mmmmmm… Five Guys…..

    As for the mediocre, cookie cutter type homes from the builders… we have an over-abundance of them where I am. There are two such houses on my block alone that have sat empty for over a year. Both are brand new and never lived in, both are on the market for dirt cheap, and neither is even getting a second glance. I laughed at the builders that are “vomiting up homes”, since that sums it up pretty well, especially for SW Florida.

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Opinion Editorials

Dopamine detox to rewire your brain from internet addiction (it’s common!)

(EDITORIAL) So, you’re addicted to the internet. Whether your drug of choice is scrolling, posting, or interacting – it’s time for a dopamine detox.

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Upside down photo of man holding iphone case saying "social media seriously harms your mental health" representing dopamine.

Ah, smartphones. The best friend we can carry around in our pockets. This small device that’s nearly glued to our hands gives us instant access to many worlds.

It’s exciting to see what’s up on Instagram, take up to six stabs at Wordle, and scroll recipes you’ll never make on Pinterest. It’s also a place where we can share the highlights of our life and, in return, get validation through likes.

With that validation comes a small rush of dopamine, something we’ve all become accustomed – and some of us addicted – to.

While I’m not addicted to posting, I would say I have an addiction to scrolling. I can’t make it through a 50-minute episode of “Dexter” without picking up my phone to check an app or two.

And there is that dopamine rush with it, where you feel like you’re the most up-to-date you’ve ever been. But what about when this becomes too much and we’re overloaded with information and feel bogged down by the constant updates?

First, we need to understand what dopamine is.

It’s a neurotransmitter that works in two spots in the brain: first, its production helps us begin movement and speech. Second, we feel it when we receive or expect a reward. It even creates a kind of “high” similar to what’s found in nicotine and cocaine.

So, if we expect these dopamine hits from social media and we don’t get those results, the dopamine crashes to the ground creating burnout.

Well, this can cause burnout. And, while tempting, the solution isn’t as easy as just deleting all of your social media and walking away clean. Additionally, “take a break” features are too easy to swipe away.

So what can you do?

Mana Ionescu at Lightspan Digital recommends a Dopamine Detox.

While breaking an addiction takes longer than a day, Ionescu recommends starting there and tailoring it to your needs.

Here is what she describes is necessary for a detox:

  1. Turn off all notifications on your phone. ALL of them. You will be looking at your phone every 10 minutes as it is. You won’t miss anything. We lose endless hours of productivity because of those pings.
  2. Tell people to call you if it’s urgent. And teach them the difference between urgent and important. So do keep call notifications on.
  3. Stop over-messaging. The more you message, the more you’ll get responses.
  4. Shed the pressure to respond right away to messages that don’t need a response right away.
  5. Take detox days. Nothing but calls, confirming meetings, and using the GPS is allowed on those days.
  6. Put your phone on sleep mode at night. You can, at least on iPhone, set permissions so that certain phone numbers can get through, in case you’re worried about mom.
  7. If you’re dating, remember that texting is for laughing, flirting, and confirming plans. Please pick up the phone and talk to that person to get to know them. I will not take you seriously if you just keep texting.
  8. And yes, we all know the game, whoever looks at their phone first over dinner picks up the bill.

This won’t be easy, but your brain will likely thank you in the long run. And, when you’re back online, hit up the comments and let us know how the detox went!

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Opinion Editorials

Strong leaders can use times of crises to improve their company’s future

(EDITORIAL) In the COVID-19 crisis, some leaders fumbled through it, while others quietly safeguarded their company’s future.

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strong leaders

Anthony J. Algmin is the Founder and CEO of Algmin Data Leadership, a company helping business and technology leaders transform their future with data, and author of a new book on data leadership. We asked for his insights on how strong leaders can see their teams, their companies, and their people through this global pandemic (and other crises in the future). The following are his own words:

Managers sometimes forget that the people we lead have lives outside of the office. This is true always but is amplified when a crisis occurs. We need to remember that our job is to serve their teams, to help them be as aligned and productive as possible in the short and long terms.

Crises are exactly when we need to think about what they might be going through, and realize that the partnership we have with our employees is more than a transaction. If we’ve ever asked our people to make sacrifices, like working over a weekend without extra pay, we should be thinking first about how we can support them through the tough times. When we do right by people when they really need it, they will run through walls again for our organizations when things return to normal.

Let them know it’s okay to breathe and talk about it. In a situation like COVID-19 where everything was disrupted and people are adjusting to things like working from home, it is naturally going to be difficult and frustrating.

The best advice is to encourage people to turn off the TV and stop frequently checking the news websites. As fast as news is happening, it will not make a difference in what we can control ourselves. Right now most of us know what our day will look like, and nothing that comes out in the news is going to materially change it. If we avoid the noisy inputs, we’ll be much better able to focus and get our brains to stop spinning on things we can’t control.

And this may be the only time I would advocate for more meetings. If you don’t have at least a daily standup with your team, you should. And encourage everyone to have a video-enabled setup if at all possible. We may not be able to be in the same room, but the sense of engagement with video is much greater than audio-only calls.

We also risk spiraling if we think too much about how our companies are struggling, or if our teams cannot achieve what our organizations need to be successful. It’s like the difference in sports between practice and the big game. Normal times are when leaders game plan, strategize, and work on our fundamentals. Crises are the time to focus and leave it all on the field.

That said, do not fail to observe and note what works well and where you struggle. If you had problems with data quality or inefficient processes before the crisis, you are not fixing them now. Pull out the duct tape and find a way through it. But later, when the crisis subsides, learn from the experience and get better for next time.

Find a hobby. Anything you can do to clear your head and separate work from the other considerations in your life. We may feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, and without a pressure release we will not be able to sustain this level of stress and remain as productive as our teams, businesses, and families need us.

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Opinion Editorials

7 sure-fire ways to carve out alone time when you’re working from home

(EDITORIAL) It can be easy to forget about self-care when you’re working from home, but it’s critical for your mental health, and your work quality.

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Woman in hijab sitting on couch, working from home on a laptop

We are all familiar with the syndrome, getting caught up in work, chores, taking care of others, and neglecting to take care of ourselves in the meantime. This has always been the case, but now, with more people working from home and a seemingly endless lineup of chores, thanks to the pandemic. There is simply so much to do.

The line is thinly drawn between personal and professional time already, with emails, cell phones, and devices relentlessly reaching out around the clock, pulling at us like zombie arms reaching up from the grave. Working from home makes this tendency to always be “on” worse, as living and working take place in such close proximity. We have to turn it off, though.

Our brains and bodies need downtime, me-time, and self-care. Carving out this time is one of the kindest and most important things you can do for yourself. If we can begin to honor ourselves like this, the outcome with not only our mental and physical health but also our productivity at work will be beneficial. When we make the time to do things we love, our mind’s gears slow down that constant grinding. Burnout behooves nobody.

Our work will also benefit. Healthier, happier, more well-rested, and well-treated minds and bodies can work wonders! Our immune systems also need this, and we need our immune systems to be at their peak performance this intense season.

I wanted to write this article because I have such a struggle with this in my own life. I need to print it out and put it in my workspace. Last week, I posted something on my social media pages that so many people shared. It is clear we all need these reminders, so I am paying it forward here. The graphic was a quote from Devyn W.

“If you are reading this, release your shoulders away from your ears, unclench your jaw, and drop your tongue from the roof of your mouth.”

There now, isn’t that remarkable? It is a great first step. Let go of the tension in your body, and check out these ways to make yourself some healing me-time while working from home.

  1. Set aside strict no-work times. This could be any time of day, but set the times and adhere to them strictly. This may look like taking a full hour for lunch, not checking email after a certain hour, or committing to spending that time outdoors, reading, exercising, or enjoying the company of your loved ones. Make this a daily routine, because we need these boundaries. Every. Single. Day.
  2. Remember not to apologize to anyone for taking this me-time. Mentally and physically you need this, and everyone will be better off if you do. It is nothing to apologize for! Building these work-free hours into your daily schedule will feel more normal as time goes on. This giving of time and space to your joy, health, and even basic human needs is what should be the norm, not the other way around.
  3. Give yourself a device-free hour or two every day, especially before bedtime. The pinging, dinging, and blinging keep us on edge. Restful sleep is one of the wonderful ways our bodies and brains heal and putting devices away before bedtime is one of the quick tips for getting better sleep.
  4. Of course, make time for the things you absolutely love. If this is a hot bath, getting a massage, reading books, working out, cooking or eating an extravagant meal, or talking and laughing with a loved one, you have to find a way to get this serotonin boost!
  5. Use the sunshine shortcut. It isn’t a cure-all, but sunlight and Vitamin D are mood boosters. At least when it’s not 107 degrees, like in a Texas summer. But as a general rule, taking in at least a good 10-15 minutes of that sweet, sweet Vitamin D provided by the sun is good for us.
  6. Spend time with animals! Walk your dog, shake that feathery thing at your cat, or snuggle either one. Whatever animals make you smile, spend time with them. If you don’t have pets of your own, you could volunteer to walk them at a local shelter or even watch a cute animal video online. They are shown to reduce stress. Best case scenario is in person if you are able, but thankfully the internet is bursting with adorable animal videos, as a backup.
  7. Give in to a bit of planning or daydreaming about a big future trip. Spending time looking at all the places you will go in the future and even plotting out an itinerary are usually excellent mood-boosters.

I hope we can all improve our lives while working from home by making time for regenerating, healing, and having fun! Gotta run—the sun is out, and my dog is begging for a walk.

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