By Tom Fedro
Business gurus have to keep in business, right? Sometimes I think that’s why we end up with a new management flavor of the month just about…well, just about every month, I suppose. There are always new books in the business section of the local store or on Amazon or even at an office supplies store. It’s amazing to me how often I see the words, “The Revolutionary New Way To” followed by something like Motivate Employees or Increase Profits or Boost Productivity. For just twenty bucks or so, I can join the revolution. I’ll admit it, there are times I can’t help myself. I’m a businessman and an entrepreneur at heart, and that means I sometimes splurge on books with titles like these.
Let’s face it, though. For the most part, everything revolutionary has already performed the coup. When I read the typical two-hundred page book, I usually don’t. What I mean is that I read with great interest the introduction which promises me brilliant insight throughout the book. Then, I read the first chapter full of excitement. Then, I read the second chapter with considerably less excitement. Then, I end up skimming the book and trying to find something from it that’s valuable. There’s always something useful, but almost nothing revolutionary. Realistically, business just isn’t that complicated. It all comes down to supply and demand and profit and loss in a macro sense and operational efficiency in a micro sense. I’m reading looking for something life changing, but I end up with a tip or a trick or two.
Why is that? Maybe I’m cynical, but I think it parallels news and information. When I was younger, there were local newspapers, national magazines, and three networks for news. Now, there are multiple 24 hour news channels, and an unlimited feed of news stories online. None of that happened because more things became newsworthy. Instead, the media became adept at creating news to fill the gaping maw of emptiness. I think that’s what we see in business. There’s a constant desire for the next brilliant business revolution, but let’s just face reality. Most businesses who operated correctly ten years ago or even twenty are still operating correctly. The real questions CEOs should be asking don’t have to do with how to do business but with how to respond to a changing marketplace.
To me, the revolution we really need is an approach to our changing customer that takes into account their new needs (real and perceived) and their new buying habits. Remember that your customer base is subject to the same unending flow of information that we are, and this access to information means we’re no longer their primary method of education about our products. Buying cycles are far longer in the initial stages and then blisteringly fast from a truly qualified lead to the close. It’s time for the gurus out there to start finding ways to help companies with that, not a revolutionary new business process but a revolutionary new way to think of Sales and Marketing. Let’s face it, I’m going to pick up the next business book I see, but I’m still holding out hope for the one I really need.