With the collapse of our economy hitting every business person in the face right now many businesses are going to have to look at innovative ways of doing business in order to stay in business. Since my business, IBGS, is not immune I thought I would share some of the directions I am considering making part of the way I do business in hopes that maybe it will help you.
So, What Should We do?
As I sat back to started looking for ways to deal with the challenges I face in business I started remembering when I was kid having to go back and forth from the comfort of having nothing to do, other than riding my bike all day, to traveling an hour every weekend to our farm in Northeast Texas where there was no telling what adventures I would get into.
I really hated going to the farm back then since it meant having to do hard physical work all day, but the memories are also filled with things like me sitting on the back porch of my grandparent’s house listening to all the guitar players in the area gathering around my granddad to play what is now known to the music world as ‘Texas Blues’. Those few hours of getting to see and listen to those outstanding musicians play, tell their stories and discuss politics, made me forget about what I thought I was missing back here in the big city.
Now that I have painted the mood I am in today, you’re now asking WTF does this have to do with doing business? That is a good question.
Like most America’s, I am having the same reaction to what has taken place with our economy these past few days. I am not sure why I would describe it as me being surprised since this train wreck has been coming for a long time, but nonetheless, I, like you, are in this mess, now what do we do?
As a careered process/project manager my instincts automatically kick in when challenges confront me. I would say, predicting how we are going to do business from now own is a pretty big challenge so my instincts are in high gear right now. In order to determine what will and will not work it has become my experience to look back into my past for solutions to problems I dealing with today.
I know that sounds strange to many of you who do not have the years of experiences in life as I do, but this goes to show you what you will be able to do in 30 or 40 years…that is if you did what I did which was listen to the stories of my elders’ experiences of their past. Little did I know those things I heard back then on the farm and during those back porch blues sessions would become useful and very clear to me 40 years later.
As I looked back into my past experiences the memories of being on the farm most of my life and all of the things I learning on how business was done on the farm produced some likely business practices that may be needed to be considered today to keep things rolling until the dust settles and people with more control over the economy can put things in place to get America back into production.
So, what was done in the past that could be used today to get a business started?
Going back to my trip down memory lane, I remember vividly like it was yesterday, spending the entire day with my grandfather taking a field full of cotton to the market just to trade it for enough Oat seed to plant in another field he farmed and entire pick-up load of groceries. My reaction was to how odd it was to pull into town with a trailer full of cotton and in a matter of hours, without ever taking his billfold out, my grandfather was able to come back home with a trailer load of oat seeds and all kinds of stuff to eat.
That was my first experience of seeing how Bartering worked. Bartering has been a form of commerce for centuries and over the years has honed this method of business to an art form. It is very unfortunate this form of basic commerce gave way, for the most part, when the industrial era arrived. Bartering is still around, however there now have been a few generations raised that have never been exposed to bartering or know how it works. So, as in everything in life and business, there are many business people who develop the attitude
“…if I don’t understand it, I hate it, and if I hate it you should hate it also.”
As I think we all can agree, attitudes towards things in business and life today are going to be forced to change. The changes people are going to have to make to survive are going to be very hard for people who have this attitude. For those of us who are not interested in dragging around in the world of despair and play the blame game to nowhere, changing attitudes to a more ‘eyes and ears open’ way of life will be the only way to find solutions to what can work to get the economy going again.
Staying negative or wanting to take out frustrations on someone else will do nothing but start the building of the breadlines my grandparents had to stand in when they were in their 30’s… Changing to new ways of doing business is a better approach.
Bartering is not going to be for everyone and it should not be the only method of commerce for any business. There are some downsides to bartering that have developed from the people who feel scamming people is a better way of doing business. Regulations are now in place on how bartering is to be reported in a businesses’ tax return. There are all kinds of things a business person needs to check out before thinking you can take a truckload of iPhones down to the grocery store to get dinner for tonight.
However, bartering at moderate levels, I would say less than 10% of a business’ commerce, could be done in bartering their product or services for some other service or product needed to keep the business going. So I would say Bartering needs to be considered if it is not already part of the way you are doing business.
No, I have not gone off my friggin rocker, Barn Raising into days world is not the same as in the agrarian economy we left a few years ago. Barn Raising today is more adapted to the way business is done today.
During my childhood, I actually was part of, what I can remember, three real-life barn raising. The one I remember most vividly started months before it actually happened. My other grandfather (who ranched) worked for months networking with people in towns all around the area to put together a real barn raising.
I remember riding in the front seat between my dad and my grandpa in an old 1949 Chevy pickup traveling about 45mph down the farm to market roads being passed by nearly everyone since my grandpa never liked to go anywhere fast. He used to say,
If the place I am going to is not there by the time I get there, then I reckon it really was not a place worth going to any faster.
I didn’t really understand at the time what he was saying since the reason why I was riding in the truck made the speed we traveled not that important. The reason I was in the truck going to a town 40 miles away to have a Chicken Fried Steak lunch…(you will learn that food back then was a Huge reason I went to the farm during my teenage years..and being 6’1″ at 15 years old, it took a lot of food to keep me going, so any trip to go anywhere to eat I was in the truck..).
When we got to town it was like my grandpa was mayor or something. Everyone knew him by his name and since by then we were going 20 mph down Main street he was actually was able to wave to all of them. For some, he was able to carry on an entire conversation with them while we were rolling.
Once in Main Street Diner the most frustrating thing for me was it took a half hour before we sat down to eat due to grandpa taking his city slicker football star grandson around to introduce him (again)to everyone in the room..but it was worth it when the brought the food on.
My grandpa would order something rather small to eat and order his coffee ‘boiling”..which when it was delivered to the table it was roaring hot..and he would chug it down as fast as the root beer I was drinking. I always thought how tough he had to be to drink coffee that would burn the hair off your arm.
It wasn’t long before my grandpa was asked by a gentleman sitting across the room (who I remember was actually the mayor or the town) how things were going on the ranch.
That 30-minute exchange of East Texas pleasantries my grandpa had with the mayor concluded with my grandpa telling the major his need to build a barn on a new patch of land he just bought and how he was not going to be able to afford to hire someone to build it. I remember it taking 30 minutes because that was how long the waitress said it would take to finish cooking the Berry Cobbler I ordered.
During the conversation my grandpa was having with the mayor he had gathered a pretty good size court of other people in that town and this was where I first heard the words Barn Raising being used. Little did I know that in a few months from that half day visit to town I was going to be in for a treat of actually being part of a three-day barn raising.
I remember it was on a labor day weekend and was going to take place on opening day for Dove Season. We pulled up to the farmhouse where I expected to get out with my mom and sister when my dad told me to “stay in the care we’re going down the road”…back then, fear was running through me since “we’re going down the road” could also mean bad stuff ..but in this case, we actually were going down the road a few miles to where there must have been a hundred pick-ups, cars, tractors, wagons and other construction equipment all sitting on my grandpa’s new land.
As we got up to the crowd of people the sun was just coming up and my grandpa, holding his cup of boiling coffee, jump up on a table to address the huge crowd of people and thank them for coming out to help with the building of his barn. He was like me, made it quick and to the point by setting out the priorities of the works to be done that day by quickly first telling everyone when lunch would be.
After that short speech, I remember how odd it was everyone knew to break up into groups and literally started to make dust fly. It was years and few other barn raises I was involved before I completely understood why that happened…they all had been to other barn raising’s and during the months of networking of the event knew what their part was to the work that needed to be done.
For the next four hours, my assignment was to be permanently connected to the business end of a sledgehammer driving stakes in the ground wherever my grandpa and dad told me to put them. We were setting the forms for the concrete that was going to be poured for the floor of the barn.
The rest of what went on for the next two days was a blur until the last day when the big dinner was held in the new barn that was built. There is where I found out how important social networking was towards getting that project done. I also found out more about how bartering played a huge part of what it took to get that huge barn built. All of those conversations back then I was listening while standing around with my grandpa and eating peach cobbler make a whole lot more sense to me today than they did 40 years ago…but have just as much value today as they did when I heard them.
The good old fashion Barn Raising I experiences back then could be adapted to what businesses, large and small, need to do today to survive this Great Recession we are having. Businesses still need to grow, or they better grow, if they are going to make it through these expected hard times. Today’s businesses can only begin to grow by starting new projects or adding new divisions to a business that broadens their market’s base. With today’s economy businesses will no longer have access to low rate affordable loans to pay for the building of new projects or developing a new product they need to bring to market that could help other businesses stay afloat. Projects will have to be self-funded or built with the help of business associates or vendors who have a stake in that business’ profitability.
The Search Continues
The only way a business is going to be successful in today’s broken economy is through the networking of the business’ needs. Business people are going to have to do more than build a FaceBook page and have every employee in the company load up Twitter with nothing but links to their website. They are going to have to do more than run out and join a dozen business networking groups that survive on the flow of how many friggin business cards can be passed out.
No, business people today are going to have to make that 40-mile drive to town at 45 mph to take the time to go meet business people in the community to let them know of their specific needs.
Now I am not going to say you are going to have to learn how to drink boiling coffee, but you are going to have to be tough to survive what we all are going to go through for a long while, so you may have to learn to take a few sips of boiling coffee to keep your focus.
Thinking for new ways of doing business and not giving up will get all of us through. And, who knows, there may be a Chicken Fried Steak in it somewhere down the road.
Let me know how I can help