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How is business?

22 May 2014

One of the questions I get asked most frequently is “How is business?” 

The reality is that most businesses operate in an environment that is ever changing – hopefully with better systems and processes, more efficient, fewer people doing more jobs. That being said, very few operate in a monopoly, and if so, not for very long. 

Generally, the entry level to even 
the most complex business quickly lessens, so best to get in early, cover costs quickly, and be ready to fight when the competition rolls in.

Like it or not, most business today is a commodity – regardless of what you offer, price may not be “THE” issue, but it certainly is “An Issue”, with the very real expectation that any variation in price is readily justifiable and reasonable.

As an example, almost anyone can start a trucking company – buy an old truck for not a lot of money, and get business by undercutting the guy around the corner. Chances are that the guy around the corner has been operating on the smell of an oily rag himself, and he knows that whilst the new guy may take some of his business, unless he can tough it out, they’ll both probably go broke. The new guy has not factored in the cost of tyres (start at $800 each), maintenance (considerable), Road User Charges (really – do we have to pay these?) – it goes on and on. It is almost a race to go broke, and no one wins. We recently saw two infringement notices to the same company, one for $5000, the other for $10,000, dated a week apart, largely as a result of ignorance -– pretty hard to pay if you’re losing money.

Few people actively or willingly embrace change, particularly that which will affect them adversely – and quite understandable, too. Having said that, like it or not, the all-encompassing term of “progress” waits for no one.

So, after nearly 30 years in business, I answer the “How is Business?” question depending on who is asking the question – so:

1) A general question asked in the supermarket 
“Not too bad thanks” or “We’re doing ok”
2) To a client 
“Pretty tough, but we’re doing ok”
3) To a supplier 
“Pretty tough, but we’re paying our bills”
4) The “real” answer 
“We have been around a long time, we’ve enjoyed the highs of the good times, and the lows of the bad. We’ve ploughed every spare cent into getting the right (best) people, the most up to date technology and resources, building reserves and strengthening our cash flow, and as a consequence we are strong enough to whether almost any storm”.

News added by: Don Malcolm 22 May 2014

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