In my last column I said that there are two primary challenges facing owners of small business. I was wrong.
I said that owners of small businesses are faced with:
- Making their business profitable and sustaining that profitability
- Ensuring the future existence of the business in a dynamic marketplace.
While I was correct in defining the two challenges, I was wrong in that it isn’t only the owners of small businesses that are faced with these challenges; it is also CEOs of large businesses. This was brought starkly to mind as I read that Blackberry, the former darling of cellphone owners everywhere, was laying off 40 percent of ifs workforce.
It was only a couple years ago Blackberry was at the top of the cell phone heap, and now it is about to join Kodak and many others that are either hoping to keep their businesses alive or have succumbed to wild swings in their fortunes. Walton Books, Circuit City, Barnes & Noble, and Blockbuster come immediately to mind. This stunning change of fortune happens to the smallest and the largest of businesses.
There is one question that owners and CEOs alike should ask themselves as they start their day: “What is happening to my industry and my business today, and what unseen challenges are lurking just over the horizon?”
Maybe that question should also be on the agenda at company meetings and meetings among peers at industry functions to better focus on future challenges.
I don’t know whether the answer to that question would be of much help in Silicon Valley where change is so rapid, but I know it would save a lot of small businesses in slower moving industries.
Imagine if you had 20/20 hindsight and you own a local book store. You read in a trade journal that electronic readers will become available. Had you asked that question five years ago, perhaps you could have transformed your store in any number of intriguing possibilities rather than wistfully becoming another tragic statistic on the scrap heap of ex-buggy whip makers, television stores and blacksmiths.