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Yesterday’s New York Times has a column by Thomas Friedman discussing the widening gap between the Haves and Have-Nots of the new economic order. Not the same old rich/poor divide but the future split of who will find work and opportunities in the future and who won’t.
I quote Friedman for two reasons; one he’s a lot smarter than me and also because he draws an interesting parallel to the Gift/Décor business.
Remember the last 10 years when our economy was “normal”? Well, actually it wasn’t. The world had caught up to (or passed) us in education, training and skills. And at the same time, technology eliminated many borders. We all know about the Indian x-ray technician working for 5% of her American counterpart and doing it all with probably more consistent results and less sass.
So how did we keep spending and growing during that massive economic shift? Debt! Good old fashioned American Debt.
And what do we have to show for it? Very large houses filled with useless cra… stuff and a haunting anxiety about our future job prospects.
So what about the jobs in our recovery? Friedman says that there will always be work for those who can go out and hustle work or create/invent value. He also says that the long-term unemployed will be those who simply perform the tasks without adding new value – waiting for someone to give them a job.
Sound familiar? Let me lay out the parable for the Gift/Décor business…
Borrowed debt kept people buying things they didn’t need at prices above the Big Box competition. This worked great up until, oh… last year.
So who survives going forward? The companies who can make it rain. Who can bring value, create, invent, inspire, etc. Those who outperform everyone else - at a higher price.
Who slowly fades away? Everyone waiting for the return of the good old days.
SO… let’s make a list of what you’ve changed. Product line fresher? More intimate with your customers? Discontinuing anything (anything; products, investments, customers) that is not profitable?
It’s a tough new world out there but I am always more optimistic than Mr. Friedman. Surviving in this economy is as easy as out running a bear. You only have to be faster than the guy next to you.
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