Business management is never easy at the best of times. And right now we’re in of the worst of times or, worse still, the end of the beginning of the worst of times. A fear of the unknown is consuming so many companies and organisations that management teams are simply tripping over themselves in a bid to stay upright.
No business sector is hurting more than the retail space. Which is why it’s the last place you’d look for counsel on how to deal with the macroeconomics of commercial survival. But step off the high street and find your way to a favourite hide-away store and there’s plenty to see and learn. Shop-keeping is the MBA, stripped bare.
Shop-keepers, that is the best shop-keepers, keep it simple. Which means everything they do gravitates around three things: Product; Passion; and Service.
Think about that for a moment. As a modus operandi it is as applicable to selling paper as it is to selling insurance. It doesn’t discount innovation. Nor does it ignore diversification. It does stick firmly to the principles of knowing what the buyer wants, having it in stock, knowing everything there is to know about it and making the customer feel like your shop is their second home.
The word on the lips of many in the public relations and communications industry is ‘survival’. Who’ll fall first? The boutique or the behemoth? Well, in the spirit of ambiguity, it could be neither or it could be both. Because size or speciality are rarely the driving force behind agency success. Product, passion and service are.
In many respects, the biggest frustration about these economic times is that they shroud the extraordinary and tumultuous change through which the communications industry is going. In the US, forecasters are predicting that in the next four years paid for advertising will fall by 70%, whilst spend on content development will quadruple. That puts every communications discipline on a collision course, ensuring he with the best idea and the best execution comes out on top. The democratisation of communication is coming your way.
But even then – even if we see such a fundamental change in the communications landscape – product, passion and service will still define the winners and the losers of our industry. They are the bedrock of commerce, good times or bad. And that means that those in our industry who are searching for inspiration through the pages of marked down management books, would do well to put down their reading material and talk to the book shop owner instead.