My experience with questions in blogs, columns and other publishing is that if one person asks a question, there are 100 more with similar questions. I’ve written columns for trade magazines such as Cast Polymer Connection (CPC) and it has borne true over time.
Speaking of CPC, if you are in the polymer business (boats, custom vanity tops, etc), you’re nuts if you don’t belong to the ICPA. I have never seen a trade group that did more productive work for its members. Outstanding group.
Back to the questions: Generally, they asked if I ever find anything good about businesses, why am I so negative or grumpy, etc. I think the reason for this perception of grumpy negativity derives from the businesses I grew up around.
The first 17 years of my business life was largely dominated by computer software programming.
Programmers are an odd lot. I can say that, as I’m one of them. Our working world often revolves around techniques and strategies to avoid creating bugs in programs, easier ways to find and fix the bugs, and how to clean up someone else’s bugs. Bugs are problems – most of the time. Sometimes they are failures to identify what a program was really supposed to do, but that’s a whole ‘nother topic.
The net of all this is that when you focus a substantial amount of your time on the identification and prevention of problems in your programs, it tends to soak into other parts of your business life. I truly believe that my software background is what makes it easier for me to discover the silly little things that businesses do that prevent them from “going to the next level,” holding onto their customers with an iron grip so no one else can take them, and so on. My mind sees them as “bugs” in a business.
Recently, I had a brief discussion with someone about the negativity thing, noting that the “bugs” show me that that there are plenty of existing markets out there for entrepreneurs to do well in – and that focusing solely on finding one new market to jump in to just isn’t necessary.
He chose to speak of the bugs as opportunities – noting that they are opportunities for the companies doing the wrong stuff or not doing enough of the right stuff. They are opportunities to improve their profitability and dominate their market simply by paying closer attention to their customers’ needs, their processes and their marketing.
That jibes with my “existing markets” angle on it. If there are companies out there making a profit, which would seem to be the case since many of them are still around, and they are doing so without operating as wisely and effectively as they could be – then there is clearly some headroom in that market for a business that does what they do, yet truly listens to their customers, does more things right, markets better, etc.
“Bugs” also identify lessons – and they are far easier to discover by noting what isn’t being done right. The right stuff is so often hidden from view, while the wrong stuff sticks out like your grandmother’s bunion.
An easy example of this “headroom” can be found by examining the Web sites of our local newspapers. I’m happy to see that several papers in the area have made changes in the last month to provide more articles and photos online; including the ability to comment on articles. Competition is a great thing – it makes business better for everyone, including the businesses themselves.
See, I’m not that grumpy after all.
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