One Error that Business Often Makes.

There is an English muffin that has been around for decades.  The brand name is Thomas, although it is actually made by a bakery that makes many products.  Its name is Bimbo.


The world acknowledges that Thomas invented the English muffin.  Over the years, many other bakeries have marketed their interpretation of an English muffin.


However, the Thomas muffin is acknowledged by most consumers as the best.


So why did the challengers enter the market?  Theirs aren't relatively cheaper or easier to find on the grocer's shelf.  They don't taste as good because their recipes aren't similar to Thomas's.


I say it's because Thomas insists that the customer slice their muffin by poking a fork a bunch of times in the middle of the side to slit the muffin in two, then pulling it apart.  Over and above the poking, when finished, it doesn't work well with a conventional toaster.


The others pre-slice theirs, just like the consumers prefer.  Their challenge has nothing to do with taste.  It has to do with not accepting the obstinance  of Thomas.


Greydon Carter

Vanity Fair is a monthly magazine that has been around, off and on, for decades.  Its recent success has been attributed to its Canadian editor, Graydon Carter. Mr. Carter was one of the founders of Spy Magazine.  It appears that he is not a US citizen.


The longtime business plan of the magazine seemed to be that its editorial substance would be interesting stories about people, fashion and in depth pieces about the rich and famous of today and the past.


Mr. Carter went on a rampage, beginning about a year before Mr. Tump was elected, in which he revealed that he had often had dinner with Mr. Trump, had been invited and did attend at least one of his weddings, but the bottom line was that he hated Mr. Trump, and tried his best to convince readers to not vote for him.


From that point forward, the magazine and Mr. Carter's monthly opinion columns, contained many bully pulpit stories that were purposely unflattering toward Mr. Trump.


As time passed, apparently the magazine lost substantial net subscribers, and received many letters objecting to the magazine's altering or changing its business plan.


For certain, a significant portion of the subscribers of Vanity Fair are supporters of Mr. Trump.  At least one Dallas Realtor has advertised in the magazine, odd since Dallas is primarily a Republican city.


Earlier this month, Mr. Carter was either fired or allowed to resign after the September issue was put to bed.


These two examples have a strong similarity, and it is that the owners or management chose to take actions that caused some of its current buyers and those who were considering buying, to buy someone else's product.

If Thomas sold their muffins already split, they would sell substantially more muffins, and their competition would be reduced.


If Vanity Fair's owners had reigned in Mr. Carter, and reminded him that his purpose was to execute the magazine's written business plan, not to take off on some rogue plan of his own, the magazine would have saved subscribers and probably added to the net.


Hard headedness regarding a position on a controversial subject is rarely a good component for a business.


Our job is always to not be satisfied with some mark that we have predetermined is good enough. That doesn't meet the definition of being competitive.


Which leads me to the question:  How is it that we, as Realtors, have a national representative, NAR, that found it OK to assist the Truilas of the world to successfully compete with us, using information you and I developed, that the Truilas merely copy and use against us?



Since 1966


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Comment balloon 22 commentsBILL CHERRY • September 19 2017 05:13PM


That was an interesting read. As I read the English Muffin example, I laughed because when my husband slices the English Muffins, I always think, "You're supposed to use a fork" which DOES make them uneven and a little harder to toast well.

I think changing strategy to fit the times is sometimes necessary, and it's not always black & white on when it's time to change and when it's time to stay the course.


Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (406-270-3667,, Broker, Blackstone Realty Group - brokered by eXp Realty) over 3 years ago

I know this isn't the point of your post, but I love Thomas and the fact you use a fork to split them. LOL

Posted by Sharon Tara, New Hampshire Home Stager (Sharon Tara Transformations) over 3 years ago

That is a very good questiom!!!

How is it that we, as Realtors, have a national representative, NAR, that found it OK to assist the Truilas of the world to successfully compete with us, using information you and I developed, that the Truilas merely copy and use against us?

Posted by Sham Reddy CRS, CRS (H E R Realty, Dayton, OH) over 3 years ago

Excellent points, Bill. I still ike my Thomas' muffins and virtually never buy other ones. I believe they taste better.

As for Vanity Fair... I started reading this magazine when it first came out decades ago and used to read it cover to cover. Over the years, I'm lucky if I find one of two articles worth reading any more. And I'm sick of their obvious political slant. If I wanted pure politics I'd read something else. I'm glad this guy is gone.

Posted by Nina Hollander, Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor (Coldwell Banker Realty) over 3 years ago

All business need to assess how it is meeting customer needs and wants on a continual basis. IBM and Kodak neglected to and look where they ended up. 

Posted by Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543, Tredyffrin Easttown Realtor, Philly Main Line (Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400) over 3 years ago

I'm in my 2nd year as an agent (broker in these parts).  I've enjoyed reasonable success in short order and I've come up against this question several times.  The Northwest MLS (the NWMLS, of which I'm a member) chooses not to syndicate its data, so the scraped data being offered in our market is often inaccurate.  I suppose we'd have a wall around our information in a perfect world, but I don't know that it's a reasonable expectation.  It's not the world we live in, besides which decision of this sort are made much higher up the food chain than I.  I've chosen to not spend resources fretting about the Zillows of the world.  There is a symbiotic relationship, to some degree, and I'm doing what I can to use their existence to my advantage.  I look at it like this... I can spend time worrying about which way the wind blows, or I can get up on my windsurf board and harness that wind to propel the best ride my talents permit.

Posted by Chris Kallin, Broker (SeattlebyDesign / Realogics) over 3 years ago

Bill, this is a thought provoking post and we need our thoughts provoked.

Good illustrations for your point.

Change is inevitable but not all change is good.

Posted by John Wiley, Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA over 3 years ago

The necessary & ongoing ingredients to sustain anything cannot be ignored. 

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 3 years ago

I always buy Thomas Muffins and fork split them. If done correctly they toast to perfection and hold the butter. (I am old school)

Having said that I undersatnd change and when to fight it and when not to fight it. It is probability of outcome and energy expended. 

Zillow will exsist. The horse is out of the barn. 

Oh, and peanut butter,  I like peanut butter on my Thomas muffins (over the butter).


Posted by Dana Basiliere, Making deals "Happen" (Rossi & Riina Real Estate) over 3 years ago

Dana, my daddy was one of the most sucdcessful life insurance executives among major companies for the better part of his 50 year career.   He had interesting thoughts:  One was that he wished that this branch offices could get by with unlisted phone numbers so the agents wouldn't sit around hoping a prospect would call.  Another was that suspenders gave away to the belt when the manufacturers decided to put clips on them to hold the pants, replacving the buttons that worked perfectly well.  The clips were unreliable, so suspenders went out of vogue.  

I'm not hot on changing things that have worked for me for decades, but after I kick and scream for awhile and realize something I'm doing isn't going to work because I demand that it work, I give in.  Just recently, I've given up mailing postcards every month.  The return has been miserable.  So I guess I must now accept that people prefer email rather than my pretty postcards.  Thanks for your comments and clever take on the whole thing.

Posted by BILL CHERRY, Broker & Wealth Coach (Bill Cherry, Realtor) over 3 years ago

That's a good question about NAR. I've been in the business 16 years and can't say they I've noticed NAR changing with the times to be better than the competition. NAR and it's members (that being us) does seem to have a lot of clout when it comes legislative agenda's being pushed through. 

I never heard about using a fork to splint an English muffin....when have I been???

Posted by Stavrula "Sam" Crafa, RNC,GRI, CDPE, PSA, Providing the integrity and service you deserve. (Future Home Realty) over 3 years ago

Sam, It is very interesting to me that when The Wall Street Journal needs a quote on housing, real estate, etc., they rarely go to NAR's economist.  They go to Truila's.  Now what further makes that interesting is that a branch of the WSJ is under contract with NAR to provide the program for, I think, Where is NAR's Complaint Department?


Posted by BILL CHERRY, Broker & Wealth Coach (Bill Cherry, Realtor) over 3 years ago

Bill- very thought provoking post.  Like some of the others, I still like Thomas muffins and have fun using a fork to break it open. The point you're trying to make though, is well taken. Sometimes people or businesses cannot keep from cutting their nose to spite their faces (as my mother used to say.)

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) over 3 years ago

                                Thank you BILL CHERRY 

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) over 3 years ago

Good morning Bill. Sometimes those with a worthy message let their ego puruse the wrong platform! Terrible mistake! Enjoy your day!

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker - Retired (Wayne M Martin) over 3 years ago

Good morning Bill - this is a lession in customer focus.  With regard to Mr. Carter, I see many business owners making his mistake on Facebook rants.

Posted by Grant Schneider, Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes (Performance Development Strategies) over 3 years ago

I can see why Kathy chose your post today to high light...well written!

Posted by Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®, Giving Back With Each Home Sold! (RE/MAX Realty Center ) over 3 years ago

Excellent post!  You make very valid points about developing our product to satisify the needs and wants of the consumer.

I read recently that narcissism is on a steep increase in America.  I think it's fairly obvious, we all meet and know self-centered "ME ME ME!" people, personally and profesionally.  But in my opinion, some in the media (including magazines like Vanity Fair), have people at the top that have elevated themselves to the point that, in a sense, they believe they are God.  In other words, everyone else out there (including their readers of course) are made in their likeness and therefore will believe as they are told and will hang on every word published, spoken or written.


Posted by Kate McQueen, Tailored service for your real estate needs! (Realty Associates Texas) over 3 years ago

I have never taken issue with the Thomas' English Muffin. I have never read Vanity Fair either.  Still, the point is a valid one... some people will judge your opinion more highly than your product.

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) over 3 years ago

Hi, Gary --

Thanks for your comments.  (You need to try a Thomas English Muffin just once. Read Vanity Fair? Eh!)

I've known real estate companies to put political signs in their office yards and inside the reception rooms.  That's about as nutty as one can get, in my opinion. 

Business is in business to do business.  Political signs and what business thinks about extraneous subjects is probably best not tried.  

Best wishes!


Posted by BILL CHERRY, Broker & Wealth Coach (Bill Cherry, Realtor) over 3 years ago

9-25-17: In a statement sent to the media...: “Nike supports athletes and their right to freedom of expression on issues that are of great importance to our society.”

There was no need for Nike to comment one way or the other.  Many have responded that they will no longer use Nike products. This is an example of what my piece, here, was about.

Posted by BILL CHERRY, Broker & Wealth Coach (Bill Cherry, Realtor) over 3 years ago

Great Post Bill.  Those are both signs of companies or brands that lost touch with the feedback (voice) of their customer. It's important that we KNOW what our customers want and need and provide it on their terms as best we can.

That being said, Thomas' has built a great brand, and none of the knock offs can compare ;-)


Posted by Anthony Kirlew, Helping You Make Fiscally Sound Choices (Group 46:10 Network @ eXp Realty) over 3 years ago

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