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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Why best is much better than good (or better) arrived on the scene to beat Google as a search engine with some really successful public relations hype. Alas, Cuil is not the best search engine. It isn't even that good. And therefore it will likely fail.

Yesterday morning, I read with some excitement that a new Internet search start-up,, would take on Google to beat the search engine giant with the depth and quality of its search. The new engine, started with several million dollars in funding, also started with quite a PR bang. But, alas, Cuil is not the best. It isn't even that good (or better). With just a little less than 100 per cent modesty, I tested it with something close to my heart, the keywords "construction marketing". Cuil couldn't find this blog. Google now usually puts it within the top three entries. So there.

Now, maybe my example is just a little personal, but with several billion dollars in capitalization and the well-known fact that Google has torn holes through its competition (which is anyone who earns significant amounts of money by selling advertising), I'm going to go way out on a tounge-in-cheek limb and say that Google has the best search engine. Because of that, and all the money the company makes, it is attracting the best software engineers, thinkers, designers, and, dare I suggest, office administrators, janitors, and maintenance mechanics. So "best" just keeps on getting better.

Eventually, the story may have a less-than-stellar conclusion. Top dogs eventually get knocked down to earth. Upstarts indeed are better (or best) in their niches, and eventually one will overcome Google --just as the Roman, Greek and British empires declined. But at their peaks truly successful businesses are truly formidable. Mess with them at your own risk. I wouldn't try (as a start-up).

So we come to the point of this blog. If you want to be really successful in business you have to be the best at what you are doing (or at least in contention, say the top 10 to 20 per cent). And you need to surround yourself with the best employees, suppliers and clients. If you accept mediocrity, you are doomed.

(OK, there are exceptions, as the owner of a third generation refrigeration contractor celebrating its 75th anniversary told me. "If the (refrigeration mechanic) has a ticket, we hire the guy -- even though his work may be mediocre and his personality sucks. The labor shortage is that severe in the trades. Of course we put the person on construction jobs, out of site of the public and customers, and keep a close eye on him. And if there is a downturn, he is the first to go.")

How do you find great employees, suppliers, and clients? It helps to have them in the first place, and to treat them with absolute fairness and respect (and that certainly doesn't mean propping up weak performers at the expense of the better employees -- you'll drive your business back down to mediocrity if you do that.)

Other suggestions:

Find your passion, and live it. At heart, I've always been and will as long as I live, be a journalist. I really enjoy digging out stories, learning, understanding, and seeking out the truth. I'm sure this helps our product quality, since we publish newspapers and websites where journalism is important.

Hire top performers. Fair pay is important, but isn't the whole thing. If you create an environment of opportunity, growth, and respect, you can still find great talent to work with you.

Work in less-than-crowded spaces. A couple of years ago, I set out to be the leading blogger on Construction Marketing. It helped, of course, that no one else at the time happened to be blogging on the topic.

This week, I took a break from the usual Construction Marketing Ideas newsletter and sent a brief note with this question: "What is your number one construction marketing concern?" Already several readers have responded -- and your responses will help me define future newsletters and blog postings. I'm also inviting comments and reports of experiences with Pubic/Private Partnerships for stories I'm writing in Canada and for The SMPS Marketer.

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