Pundits decry the ruin of Main Street Middle America swallowed up by Wal-Mart and Target. Expensive Taxi Cab medallion owners lament the personal destruction that Uber and Lyft have meant to them. I once worked for a company whose principal line of business was advertising on the exterior of pay phone booths. It is safe to assume that none of us will be headed to Blockbuster this weekend to pick up a family movie – DVD or VCR. What can you do in an economy that at every turn threatens old ways of doing things and threatens your and your company’s very livelihood? What must you do?
USA Today this week published another economic review that chronicles the 10 year (2008-2017) decline in US employment in certain business sectors and in some cases the reductions are so severe they are worrisome. Office Supply Manufacturers witnessed a 37.6% reduction in employment, Telephone Apparatus Manufacturing 40%, Book Stores and News Dealers 43.3%, News Publishers 50%, Hosiery and Sock Manufacturing 51%, Photofinishing 58%, Women’s and Girl’s Cut and Sew apparel manufacturing 61%. In the rear view mirror these look obvious but looking straight ahead (and often with blinders on) it is also easy to see that those people in these industries can miss the trend.
Look at banking where Hamilton Cornell does quite a bit of work. This week I paid for three things via VENMO: for a vacation weekend, for sports tickets, and to reimburse one of my children for his part in a holiday gift. However, it is extremely common for us to encounter bankers who are totally unaware of the prevalence of peer to peer payment mechanisms and ‘payments’ is one of the 6 most significant service offerings for banks. A recent study suggests that Amazon is trusted enough for its integrity and reliability to become a significant challenge in retail banking. Where will that leave so many of the people employed in that vital sector?
This is the time of year that many are engaged in forecasting for a better future but without significant changes in the way you go about your everyday business, even if you think you will stay the same or tread water, you may get swallowed up. It’s not enough to budget from last year’s performance and forecast a slightly better outcome if the markets you serve are in flux like so many we see today. You should be cautioned at your holiday gathering to sing along the refrain from the famous Aerosmith song,
“Same old story, same old song and dance my friends.”
Likewise, if the 47-115 Baltimore Orioles don’t make some coaching and player moves in the off season, they will unlikely see a markedly better outcome.
What is particularly concerning to us is the results of a survey that we recently conducted among 2,400 business leaders and managers regarding employee development and training. This survey asked one question:
“How much company sponsored training, exclusive of orientation and onboarding training, that is specifically associated with giving you or your employees 21st century business skills will you have had by the end of 2018?”
32% of respondents answered “2 hours or less” with the largest statistical group between 2 and 16 hours.
This is important for all the same reasons that winning teams practice and train in the off season. It is important for the same reasons that winning military units drill and conduct post engagement reviews. It is important to develop cohesive teamwork and to learn from mistakes and to take time to do it. It is particularly important in this rapidly changing economy to engage as many of your employees as possible in future focused learning activities because it is critical to engage in the difficult task of listening to your customers and gauging the movement of the economic trends that affect you and your business. If the mega trend is more than a swell, but a large cresting wave, you best read it and ride it.
The USA Today study showed a 10 year reduction in employment to be 42% in Cut and Sew Apparel, 41% in Textile Finishing, and 64% in Other Apparel Knitting. These are three of the industry segments that were at the heart of his business when Warren Buffet began to build Berkshire Hathaway into one of the largest and perennially profitable businesses in the country. If Berkshire Fine Spinning and Hathaway Shirt Manufacturing were still central to that business it would likely be gone.
So, as you review your performance compared to 2018 budgets and as you forecast what the year to come should look like, it would be advisable to budget and forecast for significant activities and associated time that will engage your business and its people in creating better outcomes. If the company you work for is not willing to make room for these investments, you would be advised to take matters in your own hands by seeking to sharpen your own skills and by looking for an organization that embraces the development of the individual employee as a key element in its strategy.
Surf’s up! Catch the wave.