Forget Words, Praise Actions

We’ve all done this before…We get excited about something we want to do, announce it publicly and are lavished with praise for effectively achieving nothing other than saying we’re going to do something.

The praise people get for signalling intent is a well-known cause of failure – the praise we get for merely contemplating taking action generates the same endorphins in our brain as having achieved it.  Once we get that endorphin hit, we feel satisfied and actually going through with the action becomes almost pointless.

This just doesn’t happen for people who talk about losing weight or “upleveling” their business this coming year – that’s rather benign and people aren’t doing it maliciously.  They are excited about what they are about to embark on, share it with their nearest and dearest on Facebook and then those people undermine them unintentionally.

Also, there are times when businesses announce something and then either just don’t get around to it because they were overly ambitious (we’ve all been there) or things changed and resources have been re-assigned.

But some people and businesses have been known to do this intentionally to inflate their own worth and esteem with the broader audience.

Overnight, Apple announced plans to repatriate their nearly $250B offshore cash hoard back to the US.  In the process, they will pay $38B in tax and make some investments domestically in the US.

When you run the math, that will leave about $200B kicking around.

In the warm and fuzzy afterglow of this announcement, Apple’s market cap went up by a cool $5B.

A number of people praised Apple for their actions and passed that kudos along to Trump for driving this tax change that led to this great victory for the American worker.

We’ll sidestep for the moment that the cash hoard in question came from sales in countries where Apple ducked and dodged taxes through creative accounting that has dubious ethics and has led many countries to deem Apple a parasite.

When you scratch the surface, the number Apple released is a bit suspect…

Apple announced that they were building a new campus.  The reality is, this was already underway and the ground broke in Reno on the new facility last month.

Apple announced that they would be spending money (no amount nominated) on helping teachers and students increase their STEM skills.  Is it $1 or $1B?  Who knows.

Apple announced that they are going to add 20,000 new jobs which works out to be about a 13% increase in headcount over the next five years.  That growth is consistent with the previous five years at Apple – from 2013 – 2017, they went from 80k staff to 120k.  These aren’t NEW jobs coming as a result of this tax cut, these are natural hires based on Apple’s planned growth estimates.

Apple announced that they will be building new data centres in the US.  Again, this has nothing to do with the tax cut.  If Apple had the capacity to support their projected data growth and services business in the US, they wouldn’t be adding data centres – nobody builds data centres “willy-nilly” – I do this all day, every day, I know this market cold.

Plus, those facilities will only be for US customers because of data sovereignty – most countries now are staunchly against their citizens’ private data being moved to the US because of the invasive laws Congress has passed.  So again, this isn’t a benevolent investment, this is planned growth that they would have had to do ANYWAY.

And then there’s an increase in the funding Apple is going to put towards “Advanced Manufacturing” in the US from $1B to $5B.  Just so you know, this doesn’t mean Apple is spending $5B on manufacturing in the US, it means that they are willing to BUY that much stuff from strategic suppliers in the US – but that stuff could realistically be made in Canada or Mexico under NAFTA.

The total net new funding announced by Apple was less than the increase of their market cap from making the announcement.

Maybe I’m cynical, but that’s a great way for a company to boost their shareholder value and not be called out as being the beneficiary of an overly generous set of tax breaks to the wealthiest company in the world.

But let’s not just pick on Apple here.

There was a company that sells to online business owners that announced a shopping cart and automation product over three years ago and have never really delivered.  They offered the product as a bonus to people who bought two years of access to another product they were launching on the premise that these things would work nicely together.

As you can expect, the bonus product which was supposed to come in six months never arrived and some 36 months later it is still in beta – they even had the cheek to ask the original customers to renew the first product.

That was cynical marketing on their part – they announced something they must have known they had no ability to deliver in an effort to get a short-term bump.

They have made all the right noises about not releasing a shopping cart and automation platform until it’s perfect, but the reality is, when you miss by that much, you have no idea what you’re doing.

Which comes back to my original thought… You should just people on what they do, not what they actually say they are going to do.

When someone adds value to you routinely, you should judge them favourably.  When someone talks about what they’re “gonna” do, then you should be sceptical.

Like in the Apple example above, I’m sceptical.  I like their products, but I won’t be assigning them kudos until they deliver stuff and catching a $5B market cap bump for announcing a bunch of stuff that they were going to do is the opposite.

This is a lesson that I’m going to be taking on board myself this year.  I’m going to “announce” stuff less and just put it out there when it’s ready.

The upside of doing is this will be less distraction – when you publicly announce something to your audience, you become really blinkered about delivery.

Interestingly, there’s some irony in “announcing” that I’m going to be doing less “announcing” but let’s look past that because this about sharing a lesson.  The truth is, these kind of “announcements” and “proclamations of intent” are really distracting.

Focus on being the person that DOES stuff rather than the one who talks about it for kudos and public recognition and your entire business will benefit greatly.

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