Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Don't Mean A Thing. It Means Everything.

You know all those statements that the recession is over?

Don't mean a thing.

Kindle and Nook?

Don't mean a thing.

Mass market dinosaurs arriving or leaving town?

Don't mean a thing.

Look, I'm into long term planning more than most. I'm always trying to see down the road, trying to diversify my stock. But once you get more than a year or two down the road, it -- Don't Mean A Thing.

Because, as a small business, you can't really go a year or two waiting for something to happen. You have to pay this months rent and next and the next. You have to sell something today, and tomorrow, and the next day.

Commercial real estate falling?

Don't mean a thing.

Oh, sure. There are occasional immediate intersections -- if you are negotiating a lease at this moment, the CRE thing is important in this moment. But the vast majority of businesses are already locked into a lease, and so falling rents --

Don't mean a thing.

By the time it does mean a thing, a couple of years from now, everything will have changed, and you'll be trying to guess what will happen a couple further years down the road, and it --

Don't mean a thing.

Small business can't hold it's breath waiting to see if Kindle takes off, if the economy recovers. Trying to guess what the customer is going to want in a few years?

Don't mean a thing.

I've been waiting for the Oxford Hotel to open, wondering if it will help my neighborhood. But while I've been waiting --

It Don't Mean A Thing.

What means a thing is budgeting over the next couple of months, ordering over the next couple of months, managing my cash flow over the next couple of months. Designing the store the way I like it, trying to guess what will sell, looking for ways to display it all.

Holiday sale predictions?

Don't mean a thing.

Oh, I still try to guess. I still try to plan. But, more than a year down the road? You're just flipping a coin.

So you have to design your business to survive with either a head or a tails result.

You don't try to build a house by guessing the weather. You build a house to withstand heat or cold, wet or dry, wind or fog. You live in it day to day.

I create scenarios and imagine what I will do if certain conditions prevail -- but that's all it is. Most of the time, it won't happen. Sometimes, fortuitously, it does.

As a store you bring in so many options, that you can turn on a dime and pursue what is working, you can experiment with new products, let other products go, and constantly shift with the prevailing winds.

Because trying to guess the long term future?

It don't mean a thing.


Nice little essay. You know, the recurring theme. The "Who Knows What Evil Lurks in the Heart of Men" theme. Wuwhoooohhaaaaahhaha......

I believe every bit of it.

And yet, I believe the opposite. Every bit of information means something, every article I read, every expert's prediction. I'm wallowing in it on a day to day basis. Locally, nationally, and within my own industry.

I'm making choices based on that information.

If I'm right, I'll survive and thrive.

If I'm wrong, I'm a goner.

It's amazing to me how many businesses DON'T think about these things, how many of them don't plan for the longrun. They are of the mind that they can't predict, so why try?

On a day to day basis, that's prudent. Why agonize?

What's happened to me is that I've come to hold both themes in mind at the same time, flipping them and turning them and giving them less or more importance.

Ultimately, both are right. I take that information, and I try to intuit the future, and try at the same time to run my business on a day to day basis without disrupting it with my guesses.

This is a really sloppy essay, but it feels right to me. Because running a business is messy, you know?

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