Friday, October 19, 2007

Not too long ago, another retailer on a bulletin board I go to, asked the question (the kind of open-ended essay question that gets asked when nothing much is happening.) :

"What do you think is the most important characteristic of a successful business?"

The answers were many and varied, but none of them was the answer I came up with. An answer that was immediate and obvious, to me.

The ability to think for oneself.

The ability to look at all the available facts and come up with your own conclusions. The ability to go against the grain, if need be.

Every single product line, given enough time, will make a wrong turn. Like lemmings headed for a cliff, just about everyone in the industry falls into some delusion. If you can't move to the side, and think, everyone else is wrong, we're headed for a cliff, you will just be part of the herd.

Safe practices will protect you, to some extent. But even more effective is to avoid the damn cliff in the first place.

I realize this probably sounds arrogant. I'm right and everyone else is wrong. But that's not what it's about. It's about making decisions that are in your own best interest. It's about responding to your own instincts.

To me, it's never been all that difficult to realize that we're headed for a cliff. I used to think, "Wait a minute. Could I be wrong? How can it be so obvious to me, and yet almost no one else see it?"

Usually that doubt is something that builds and builds inside until it becomes a certainty. I don't react to the first moment of doubt, or the second, but there comes that moment when you have to take action based on your own instincts.

Sadly, knowing that an industry is headed for a cliff doesn't help you save your sales, but you can start to make plans, fall back positions, limit your risk. The sales will probably disappear, but if you aren't sitting on a pile of product or bills, or you have brought a different product in to take it's place, you'll survive.

It can be kind of lonely. Everyone is saying and doing one thing, while you are doing the opposite. I usually don't try to convince everyone else, because it doesn't do any good.

Several times, I've looked another store owner in the eye, and said: "You realize this product is going down." I've all but said to them, look out! Look for something else to sell! Instead, I just wait for a couple of years, and then....they're gone.

So, think for yourself. Beware of the herd.

5 comments:

Duncan McGeary said...

Why can't they see downturns? Because they haven't been through a full cycle, even once. Much less two or three or more.

Without perspective, they can't survive.

How do you gain perspective? By surviving.

Pedro Hemes Valdes Ortega said...

dfisher@bendbulletin.com

The above is the solution, people should email COSTA and FISHER @ the BULL, and tell them that they need to start telling the truth.

A society only falls apart when the people refuse to get off their ass.

We have let the BULL have it their way for too many years. They're not going to be able to lie their way out of this one.

I think if they thought they were not alone, they might tell the truth, as you say duncan, the truth is lonely,

Duncan McGeary said...

Hey, I'm only half facetious about wanting the Bulletin to keep spinning golden webs of fairy silk.

Trying to figure out how I feel. It's happening a little too fast. I forgot one of the cardinal rules of bubbles, they always burst faster than you think.

I may be the little piggy that was crying wolf, but I haven't quite finished the roof on my brick house.

So keep the illusion alive Bulletin. After all, it's only your precious credibility you're expending, not mine!

Keep reassuring people till Christmas, then I'll be ready,

Duncan McGeary said...

You know, I've defended the Bulletin over the last year or so. I thought their headlines didn't match the content, and attributed that to an over zealous editor.

I thought there was a pro real estate slant, but felt they reported enough of the real facts to see through.

But this last story is pretty indefensible.

The Bulletin to me is now like the city council was a few months ago. Something has gone haywire, and I suspect that heads will roll.

That is, if the Bulletin wants any shreds of dignity left.

Duncan McGeary said...

I suppose it's a difference of degree. The headline is just a little too misleading, the slant just a little too obvious.

Meanwhile, the graphics contradict the story in a glance.

I figure the graphics guy at the Bulletin is a subversive -- a secret bubble busters. (Hope I haven't gotten him in trouble...)