Fueling Thought About Fuel Prices

By Beacon Staff

I’ve thought for several years that the inevitable rise in fuel prices would have some positive impacts on society and business – in addition to the obvious negative ones.

Rather than typical (whatever that is) left or right wing thinking, it’s a realistic point of view.

For example, rising fuel costs should…

  • force us to become more self-sufficient, both as individuals and as communities.
  • force us to become better thinkers. The smartest business now has even more of an edge.
  • force us to become better planners.
  • force us to become far more responsible to ourselves, our neighbors and to our businesses.
  • force us to deliver even more services via the Internet
  • force us to use the Internet to fine tune the logistics of every aspect of our businesses
  • require our communities to become far more dependent on the individuals and businesses within, rather than on a largely-faceless community 600 or 6000 miles away.

That last one is where the business that has a personal relationship with its clients will shine.

What should fuel costs have the small business owner thinking about?

The obvious thing is the cost of shipping and transportation.

While it is “really cool” to order a new computer on the internet at 2 am and then be surprised to have the Airborne guy knocking on the door with the computer box at 8 am, the cost of making that happen is far more than the $5 it cost back in 1987.

Changes in fuel pricing require some serious thought, no matter what you do or sell.

Look for things that “most people” aren’t even talking about.

Consider the real estate business, for example

It appears that prospective home buyers are looking differently at the location of homes and the resulting commutes than they were a year or so ago.

The higher price of homes close to town is offset by shorter commutes to work and shopping. Suddenly, those numbers become even more significant.

If you are a Realtor or a mortgage broker, you have to be watching for small changes in people’s behavior before they become large changes. You might start selling more homes in areas that are less congested (slower traffic, longer commutes), yet still close in and convenient.

You might have a new tool that takes MLS address info, ownership years, employer data and change real estate agent farming forever.

Maybe you focus on services for employers whose employees need to find homes closer to the office, or a similar service for employers who are moving employees to the area.

Some Realtors do this now in some form, but who takes it to the next level – and how?

Meanwhile, the attraction to live deeper in the woods is dulled a bit by the cost of fuel. So what do you do with those outlying listings that aren’t moving?

You might focus your attention on selling those remote homes by focusing on the quality/speed of broadband internet in that area. You may need to focus your marketing on work-at-home business owners, telecommuters and others who are far less concerned about commuting. They’re easy to find.

Distances to day cares from work and homes become critical both to your employees and to employers seeking them. Minimum wage workplaces will be selected in part based on commute distance, since commute costs will quickly eat into a smaller wages.

You must put far more thought into those 3 little words: location, location, location.

The best Realtors are going to find smart ways to leverage today’s issues, as they always have, only the parameters have changed.

It isn’t just real estate though

If you do a lot of mail order/internet order/phone order business, how are you preparing your business to do more locally?

What if shipping costs tripled tomorrow? Would your mail order business survive? Where would you find “replacement” customers locally? How would you attract them? Would you focus on regional mail order clients vs national? What changes in your product line are necessary to succeed on that refocused client market?

These are things you should already be thinking about, no matter what you do.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.

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