The Lesson of the Brown M&Ms

You’ve heard the jokes about the outrageous demands rock stars make for stocking their dressing rooms during performances. Madonna requests new toilet seats; David Hasselhoff wants a life-sized cut-out of himself; Prince wanted everything in his dressing room covered with plastic wrap and James Brown is said to have requested two girls under the age of 21 and a lady’s hairdryer.

UnknownMany people trace these outrageous requests back to Van Halen. The band was mocked for famously requesting that the bowls of M&Ms in its dressing room had all the brown ones removed.

Rather than the ridiculous, egotistical request it may seem on the surface, it was actually a very clever way to ensure the band members’ safety.

At that time Van Halen had a sophisticated stage set-up and played in some older arenas that may not have been up to code. All the technical specifications on how the equipment needed to be set up safely were included in the tour rider that contained the request for a no-brown-M&M dressing room.

When the band and their managers walked in their dressing room and saw no brown M&Ms, they knew that the crew had read through the document carefully and their equipment would be handled correctly. If they did see brown M&Ms, they knew they’d need to check the entire production.

Fast forward a few decades and I’ll tell you what I can use as an indicator of whether a company has its act together and is taking care of business. Its website.

When I am called about consulting with a company, during the phone call I pull up the company’s website. I look to see if the site is being updated and includes new products. Are there any recent awards or press releases on there? Do I have to hunt for an address or a phone number to contact someone? Is it easy to navigate? Can I locate what I need to find quickly? These are just a few of the things I look for in that initial perusal.

A website is vital as a company’s online business card. And if the website isn’t being taken care of, then I can guarantee you other issues at that company are not being addressed either.

If a company isn’t taking care of the basics, like maintaining an updated and accurate website, it’s an indicator of shortsightedness and I know I’ll be finding other important tasks that have been neglected as well.

I worked with one guy who ran a $50 million manufacturing company. But the company had no website to purchase its products or even locate where a customer could find its products. I have plenty more stories like that.

I hear all the excuses: We’re working on it. The person who updates our site left. We don’t have the passwords. We’ll do it tomorrow. We can’t afford it.

But somehow tomorrow never comes.

Think of the saying: You only get one chance to make a first impression. Your website is often that first impression. What kind of impression is your company making?  If it’s not a good one, make it a priority to improve it.

I’m thinking of adding a new clause to my contract when I work with a company. I will request a box full of mixed nuts, trail mix and peanut M&Ms. And colors are fine. If I find these items when I show up, then I know people at the company are paying attention to detail and will most likely be cooperative.

If not, well, I may have a harder time getting the cooperation I need to get that company turned around. And I’ll just bring in my own snacks.

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