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All businesses tend to drift. Your business drifts with the marketplace. It drifts with the economy. It drifts with technological change.
You notice your business being pulled this way and that. Change is different from drift. You might change with the changing marketplace--offering organic products to meet new demands.
Drift is 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--ignoring the thing that made you successful in the first place.
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 pushed sales. As time passed, however, Mary noticed that customers asked to buy the special pins, and they left the hats behind. She was happy to be selling things, and she concentrated on turning out pins--even though the pins did not sell for many dollars. 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. The business had drifted, becoming something else.
It is gratifying to get a bunch of new orders for your products. In small business, 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 desktops to his shop and he would get everything repaired and in shipshape. After college, John decided to expand his repair shop, addressing a change he spotted in the marketplace. Clients began asking John to come to their operation to install new computers and software, network them, and train employees in the use. Now and then, someone still brings a computer to his place for repair, but these days, John's business is primarily installing, troubleshooting, networking and training at clients' offices.
Sometimes technological changes can result in business drift that makes a lot of sense. But don't ever drift into lines of business that are inconsistent with your long term goals and business plan.
Business drift happens all the time. Be alert to drifts. Before you let a drift change the nature of your business, check it out carefully.