Stop me if you’ve heard this one.
An old and distinguished business in New Orleans has seen more than half of its revenue disappear in five years and has decided to change how it conducts business – before it goes out of business.
It is going to sell its old line of products three times a week instead of seven times and will focus on selling a new product line. The owners believe the new product line, if successful, will ensure the business survives.
The business is not alone in its problems. Everyone they know in the same industry has the same problems. Everyone knows something has to change.
So, they start on their plan.
They don’t handle it very well out of the gate. They poorly communicate the changes to their employees and to their customers.
They mis-step by not having their new product line anything close to being ready and clearly didn’t take the right steps to protect their top talent. The very talent that can make a big difference in the new product line.
They chew up a lot of goodwill all round.
And no one believes the owners for a half-century or so suffered having to let go employees because the business of the future cannot support the same expenses of the old. These would be the same owners who used to try and guarantee employees a job for life.
But imagine the owners’ surprise when they are lambasted for not continuing with the old line of business that is driving them out of business.
Imagine their surprise when community leaders – politicians, musicians, restaurant owners – demand the owners sell their business to them (for a song surely, it’s a dying business after all) because they want to stick with the old dying business.
Imagine their surprise when their industry colleagues and critics lambaste them for changing when change is what is needed.
As for me, the owners are doing what they think right.
Could they do it better? I think they could do it a lot better but they are attempting to dramatically change their business.
And it is a change largely directed at a future that focuses on the new line of business and less on the old.
Importantly, they remain committed to their core business and mission with what resources they have.
So I support them because their industry is my industry and it will not survive without dramatic, difficult and bloody change.
And like them I am willing to do what it takes to make our businesses survive.