Be Prepared is the Boy Scout Motto, but it should also be on your short list of rules for business because change comes in many forms.
Competition brings change.
When I came into the photography software business, there were eight reasonably happy vendors. A lot of photography software vendors went out of business during that first five years. At the end of five years, only three vendors remained. Five years later, those three vendors remain the only ones of any substance in that market. The rest couldn’t, or wouldn’t, adapt. Walmart, Costco & franchises bring similar change.
Legal forces bring change.
Telemarketers found their business temporarily shut down after the Do Not Call (DNC) legislation was made law. They had to adapt and market to groups who had permission to call, such as politicians and non-profit groups, who are exempted from the law for not-too-surprising reasons. Otherwise, they had to find businesses who needed help with calling customers with whom they already had a business relationship. Or they had to stick to business-to-business calling, which also isn’t restricted by the DNC law.
Prior to the DNC law, fax marketing was a target. It was shut down after the “fax spam” law was implemented (thank goodness). Some businesses doing this kind of communication legitimately had to adjust.
Prior to the Reagan years, television infomercials were illegal. This has flip-flopped back and forth at least twice.
If the businesses using these services were communicating with a diverse set of tools, they came out ok when these changes were made. If they pay attention to industry news (much less government news related to their industry), they knew these things were coming far before they went live.
So what happened? Those who only used fax to get cold leads (ugh) had to scramble to remake their business. Those who at one time depended on late night TV for sales found themselves out of business almost overnight – unless they were paying attention and were…prepared. Those who annoyed you at dinner time had to adapt, or go out of business.
Environment & economics bring change.
Software companies found their competition moving development to cheaper programmers in India. Some found success there, some did not, but it has altered the landscape of the software business.
Organics have changed the food industry. Not everyone wants hormone-stuffed filets. Some have chosen not to go organic. Some have adopted organic methods and changed markets, working with less price-sensitive clientele, because organic is more expensive.
Ethanol has changed the corn growers’ view of the world. It has also changed the third world’s supply of corn. It has changed the business of those paid to ship that corn overseas. It has changed the use of the land.
As a recent Wall Street Journal story discusses, no one is immune to radical business changes that the unprepared might never see coming.
Several communities in California and elsewhere are considering banning home car washing, or any car washing on the street. Some communities have already outlawed business’ use of a hose to wash off sidewalks, even if a pet leaves a little gift pile on the sidewalk. Others are considering laws covering the soaps and recycling that commercial car washes can use.
If you own a car wash, your business is going to change.
If you raise money for your organization with outdoor parking lot car washes, your fundraising is going to change.
If you sell car wash supplies to the general public, your business is going to change.
If you own a car dealership, your business is going to change. Imagine how many car washes a new car dealership does per month. As the WSJ article noted, using the wipe-on, buff-off soap takes 15 minutes longer to wash each car. While it does save a substantial amount of water, 15 minutes times 100 cars on the lot translates into either a lot of time, or a number of additional car washing staff.
The only businesses immune to change are dead. Be Prepared.
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