Spring has pretty much come and gone, summer is ventilating heat here as it is across much of the country, the dog days are officially upon us. With the South Carolina heat comes reflection, it is after all easier to reflect when things slow down than it is when they speed up. Here is a reflection, dare I say lesson, on doing business in 2010.
Being self-employed definitely has its perks. Want to take an impromptu trip to Augusta to check out productivity software at the Apple store? No problemo, you’re the boss, go on your geek quest and indulge in the euphoria of utilizing the 3G feature on your iPad for the first time while you ride shotgun in your cushy Chevy Suburban truck. What’s that you hear? You have payroll due for two businesses, rent due for three locations, and a handful of rioting clients over a delayed turnaround time in services ordered? Turn the truck around, this geek adventure must wait.
While the example above is mostly hypothetical, the truth, pains, and stresses it illustrates are entirely real to me. For the better part of a year I’ve attempted to diversify my business interests in a hedge against any one business becoming victim to the economy.
Watching the Today Show this past Saturday morning sprawled out on my sofa that’s too small to fully lay down on, legs bent and all, I was privy to the advice uttered every year by a perky summertime fun expert turned TV personality. The advice to having a safe and fun summer at the beach goes something like this, when going swimming in the ocean be on the lookout for riptides, if you are swimming in the ocean and get taken by one, swim parallel to the shore, instead of towards it to stay alive. The logic being that if you swim with the current instead of fighting it, the end result will be life preserved. Much of my business ventures as of late have been riptide inspired.
Instead of boldly claiming our business is going to become recession-proof, which is a dumb phrase on so many different levels to begin with, we instead aim to navigate the recession-riddled waters of commerce with cautious aggression. Try to do as much as we can to hedge ourselves against going out of business, while still working to innovate by bringing new products and services to those that want them, this is the game plan we have followed to date. Sounds like a good plan right? Maybe not.
By cautiously but aggressively expanding we have in essence made our business vulnerable to the economy in new and different ways. Instead of dealing with one business that has to figure out how to keep customers coming back day after day, we are now forced to deal with three, or more depending on your definition of a unique business. It’s as if we swam with the current when caught in a riptide only to get bit by a jellyfish. Maybe the best bet all along was to stay out of the ocean all together.
Hindsight is 20/20, and critics are far too eager to analyze a business post problem. What is clear is that caution in business makes a lot of sense right now, staying in a core competency and executing a long-term plan also is a pretty good idea these days. Trying new things just because the economy sucks, unfortunately, is not.