The Brilliance of the Ballerina

I have opined in the past that “There is no such thing as bad business, just bad management” and if you think how difficult it is for a ballerina to keep on her toes, you will surely identify with what I say (and of course, she makes it look easy).

ballet_1It was in the year 2002 that I opened my first email account on Hotmail. I placed my age at the time in the body of the address because I knew I would never otherwise remember when having an email account became necessary. To be trite, the world has changed a lot since then….so quickly that it has left many of us behind in its wake.

We all want our businesses to be successful, to grow. Yet how many businesses have fallen by the wayside and still do? Banks recognize this and will not lend to you unless, out of many underwriting issues, you can show you have been around profitably for at least three years.

Of course, some things do not change. We celebrate Thanksgiving Day with a turkey year after year. Rites of passage in our personal lives are celebrated from generation to generation, but the things that do change are the ones that allow for failure, that sometimes take us unawares, that change the playing field when we are busy buying beers and Hot Dogs. We don’t stay on our toes….

For our businesses to grow, we have to know our market. We have to know the characteristics and the values of those to whom we wish to sell. We have to know what they want and most importantly, how they go about getting what they want. We have to realize that the most important population segment to whom we sell our products and services (unless specifically designed for the aged) are the Gen X’ers and the Millennials.

Here are some interesting facts: The Pew Research Center found that “Millennials…are detached from institutions and networked with friends”. A survey by The Economist “suggested increasingly liberal attitudes with regard to social and cultural issues as well as higher overall support for classical liberal economic policies”. Gen X’ers are characterized by high levels of skepticism. Moreso, their methods of communication have changed; these folk do not answer the telephone, will text instead. (Hey, I know: It’s almost impossible to get hold of my kids on the phone these days). Even email, that “new” form of communication is seeing a decline as people use Social Media to stay in touch.

I have been a Luddite, to some extent, yearning for the “old days”, resistant to the use of things such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and the like. Nonetheless, you have been warned. Ignore these new technologies and opportunities will be lost. The market you seek will not know you. In a report in Business Week, it was reported that Millennials will not speak to an Insurance Agent, but would rather fill out a form on line and wait for a quote.

fbad_1It is hard to keep on your toes, but we must work as hard as the ballerina to do so. Embrace the new technologies, keep experts (usually young ones!) around to advise and implement. Forget the fax machine, use the phone as a last resort and let your business be represented on the internet as never before. To some extent, it’s easier; it allows customers to come to you when they know what they want rather than pursuing leads just by using the old ways. And don’t forget that size does not count. Kodak is gone, but Fuji changed its product line and is thriving. Know what you have to sell….even fast food chains are losing out as folks go for real quality rather than what they perceive is the processed junk that we are fed on by them and in so many other ways.

To succeed, we need to retain the values that don’t change: Integrity, honor, quality of goods or services, a lack of greed, all those classical values that remain immutable over time, but we have to add the new ideas, the new techniques to our arsenal. And, of course, always have a cash flow that allows you to pay your bills on time and sleep at night.

Call me to talk about your cash flow.

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