Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Drifting along

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     Businesses drift. Your business drifts with the changing market. It drifts with the economy. It drifts with social media. You're pulled this way and that. 

     You want to change with the changing economy. And you want to change with the changing social media. But change is not drift. Change is what you do consciously. Drift simply carries you along a path you might not want. 

     Your business is drifting when you chase the easy sale and ignore the rest of the business. Your business is drifting when you begin catering to the latest fad in the marketplace. 

     Example: Mary loved making women's hats. She loved designing them. She loved selecting different materials to use in the hats. She also loved to decorate the hats with pins she had made using buttons, beads and seeds. These additional items made the hats "pop" and led to sales. As time passed, however, Mary noticed that customers asked to buy the special pins, and the left the hat behind. She was happy to be selling things, and she concentrated on turning out pins. Then she got an order for 500 pins. She was suddenly in the pin business and the hats languished on the displays. What had been the accessory became the main product. She had let her business drift--without really paying attention to the longer term implications.

     It's always gratifying to get a whole bunch of new orders. In small businesses, it can also mean that the other items and lines you offer will suffer. Your business is about to drift into new areas--areas that might not be consistent with where you want the business to go. 

     Example: John had worked on computers since his high school days. While still in college, he opened a computer repair shop. In those days, people would lug their computers to his place and he would get everything repaired and in shipshape. After college, John decided to expand his repair shop. Customers began asking John to come to their offices to install new machines, network them, and train their employees. He decided to go with the drift, and it was a good decision. Now and then, a person still brings in a computer for repair or upgrade, but mostly, John spends his time at his clients' locations--installing, troubleshooting, networking and training others. 

     A drift in your business can tell you that the marketplace is changing. It's an indicator. But it's up to you to decide whether or not to go with the drift. Do it with your eyes open. Don't drift into lines of business that are inconsistent with your long term goals and business plan.

     Taking care of business means taking care of drifts. They happen all the time. Pick and choose those that you want to follow, and discard the rest.    

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