Problem Mushroom

Posted on March 17, 2011

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Problem Mushroom

What’s a problem mushroom?  In my opinion pretty much any mushroom which happens to be on my plate.  I’m not a massive fan of mushrooms, it’s the texture, the smell, the look and the taste of them that I have an issue with.  That said, I don’t go around telling people I don’t like mushrooms, well until now.

However a problem mushroom in marketing parlance is a term used to help you visualise the potential damage of an unhappy customer’s behaviour if they don’t like you or your product. They tell people about their experience and if the story is compelling enough some of those people will repeat it – Twitter is a great way of perpetuating problem mushrooms by the way.  So, what started as one single problem quickly mushrooms and suddenly it is a bigger problem.  The lesson being, nip it in the bud, or whatever the mushroom equivalent of a bud is.

Why am I telling you this?  Well it’s my dad’s birthday today and he loves the term “problem mushroom”, so-much-so that whenever he comments on this blog he uses that very name as his pseudonym (apart from on Tuesday when he posted as “Neil’s Father” as if to ruin this post).  He did use his actual name once, but I said “Da-aaaaaaaad, gonnae no dae that?  It looks like my audience is made up entirely of family members!”  – a bit teenage of me I know but  he likes being a problem so in some ways I think he’s found his niche.

I usually moan on this blog, but today I want to wish the Problem Mushroom a happy birthday and I want to pay homage to a man that is one of kind and a true black-belt moaner.

Born in Paisley during the latter stages of WWII, it’s fair to say that the Problem Mushroom had the cards stacked against him.  Paisley gives Basra a run for its money in terms of roughness. That said Paisley has output a lot of great thinkers:  Andrew Neil and Christopher Brookmyre spring to mind and great moaners too:  Alex Ferguson and my dad.

I always remember a story my dad told me about saving up his pocket money to buy a clay pipe.  He was so happy with his purchase that he ran home and tripped up the stairs breaking his pipe in the process.  If you walk up the same stairs in Paisley these days you can’t move for crack-addict’s pipes, so the fact that the Problem Mushroom had a pipe for blowing bubbles sixty years or so ago is quite nice I suppose.

He’s not the most practical of men my dad.  In fact, he is to practicality what Prince Philip is to tact.  To illustrate this point for you, you need to understand my dad’s approach to most challenges… hit it and hit it hard.   You can take the boy out of Paisley, but you can’t take the Paisley out of the boy!  I think this approach stems from a job he had working on the steering gear on yachts as a young man.   It probably wasn’t yachts as this was Glasgow, but that’s what my memory is telling me, so let’s go with that image.  If a Glasgow Kiss is a head butt a Glasgow yacht is, in all probability, a floating jobbie.

My dad had the job of linking up the steering on a yacht with the rudder.  This involves a lot of linkages between the boat house and the rudder.  To do this job required making sure the steering wheel was straight, as was the rudder, and then tightening all the links between the two of them.  Of course by the time he’d tightened all the pieces he would find that either the steering wheel wasn’t straight or the rudder wasn’t, or more likely neither were.  My dad’s answer to this was a hammer.

Another illustration of his lack of practicality was when he ended up in the A&E department of the Glasgow Royal Infirmary after trying to trample down the contents of his wheelbarrow in order to save himself from the chore of emptying it at the bottom of the garden.  A 6ft 2″ Paisley man standing on top of a wheelbarrow is not something you see everyday.  A 6ft 2″ Paisley man lying in a pool of blood is more common and so I suppose it’s no surprise that the Problem Mushroom took the problem of repeated trips to the bottom of the garden and mushroomed it into a lengthy trip to A&E, it was in his genes and all over his top too!

That said, my father is practical in other ways.  Tell him of a wrong doing to the common man and he’ll go beyond giving them the answer, he’ll fight their corner for them.  I’ve told him about my six year old nemesis and he has suggested a few tactics, none of which I think I can practically follow through with – shame though.  Mind you, the Problem Mushroom’s motto, “hit them and hit them hard” often lends itself towards a more hardline answer to problems.

Most of my friends at school were scared of my dad.  This wasn’t fair as he is a big softie, but it was understandable.  I remember a time when we went on a “pleasure boat” on the River Thames with friends (they were from Glasgow, so my dad’s behaviour was mild in their eyes).  We came to Boulters Lock in Maidenhead which is a busy part of the river and we had to wait our turn to enter the lock.   The current at that point of the Thames is quite strong, especially when you are in a glorified dinghy with bunting, so my dad made the decision to tie up while we waited our turn.

Boulters Lock

Boulters Lock, a bit removed from Paisley, maybe a bit too far removed?

This decision prompted a pompous man on a yacht (with steering truer than a Japanese Nuclear Agency ironically enough) to blast his horn as he felt the area where we tied up our piece of flotsam was his space.  This was a strategic error on his part as it made my father, the Problem Mushroom, start to twitch just below his left eye – a sure sign of impending doom for the recipient of his wrath.

To cut a long story short: the pompous man spouted the laws of the river to a point a few feet above my dad’s head – another error on his part.  This resulted in both men standing on the wooden jetty which the flotsam/yacht-with-decent-steering were both tied to in order to debate this.  My father who was Chairman of BPICS at the time (an acronym I always thought stood for “Big Pricks in Costumes”, which probably explains why they are now called the Institute of Operations Management) must have been a good debater, but all I remember of this debate was the threat: “Get back in your boat, or I’ll put you in the river.”  Suffice to say the man, who ironically enough was a big prick in a costume, got back on his boat.  I still think my dad should have threatened to sort his steering out, but there we go.

My father is also a man who is a source of useful advice.  When I was a teenager I asked my dad about the birds and the bees.   My specific question was “How long do you keep it in for dad?”, to which he replied, without a moments delay, “Until it falls out son.”  You really can’t argue with that logic or clarity of thought can you?

I could go on, but I feel the Problem Mushroom warrants future attention, so I’ll hold some things back…

For now let me end by saying I couldn’t wish for a more erudite, insightful,  jocular, angry, whingy, intelligent and scary (in a more meaningful way than the six year old is scary) father. Happy Birthday Problem Mushroom!  The guest blog option is always open to you!

Now, is there a learning in marketing terms here, of course there is!  Sometimes you try to avoid the main problem and you come up with strategies to avoid tackling the confrontational issue, when in fact you need to think Problem Mushroom and nip it in the bud.  Hit it, and hit it hard!

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