Change



“They always say that time changes things, but you have to actually change them yourself.”
-Andy Warhol

I work in the media industry, an industry facing big challenges due to the economy as well as the shifts in the way that our customers think about and purchase media-related products. When I think about our business and where the growth opportunities are going to come from I am reminded of the experience I had with my family's printing business.

Fifteen years ago, the printing industry was going through everything the media industry is going through: consolidation, competitive pricing pressures and prices that drop below the actual costs of doing business. My family ended up closing the printing business, but while we were struggling to keep the printing business alive, we launched a poster business that still exists today.

The way that we discovered the poster business was by exploring ideas and testing them out. At first, we thought we wanted to design and make book marks by using the scrap end of the stock. As we pursued that idea, it grew to the idea of doing art prints, which after testing the market (and failing at that), grew to the concept of large inspirational art posters. The concept was unique at the time and the focus groups told us the product would never sell, but in fact, it did. It was our willingness to explore something new, focus on something we were passionate about (art and inspirational messages) and really persisting even in the face of the market data telling us it wouldn't work.

The first year we took our full line of 20-posters to the trade show, we were the only poster company. The next year, there were four new competitors copying our products, but because we were the market leader our posters stood the test of time. Today, some of the poster titles have sold hundreds of thousands of copies. It's still a small business, but it's a market leader in its category.

At nearly every business that is struggling today, I think that this is the perfect time to focus on what the people are most passionate about, have the willingness to pursue a new idea and make it acceptable if the business model for the new idea isn’t immediately defined. It’s the time to allow for experimentation, but also not to give up when something fails. It’s a time to explore and test things out.

In the business where I work, I always come back to our owner/founder's original idea for the business. At the time, he was so visionary, that the marketplace wasn’t ready for his idea. Maybe now is the perfect time. Maybe it’s the same for the company where you work. Maybe you have an idea that you’ve been incubating for a few years. Maybe now is the perfect time to pursue the idea.

It’s hard to think about investing in a new idea—whether it be a new product or new business when everyone is thinking about cutting back and trimming expenses. Investigating a new idea doesn’t mean you have to invest all of your resources into it. Instead, a very small team of people could pursue the idea. They could do this as an extra activity in addition to their normal job duties. And, if they are passionate about it, they will do so willingly! Entrepreneurial ideas come to fruition during times when we are faced with huge challenges, few resources and an outlandish dream. In fact, Google was started during a recession. GE was founded during the depression. With the passion, focus and openness to experimentation at your company, just think what you could create.

And, as time changes things over the next 5 years, you could change your business into the great brand that Google became just a few years ago.
© 2010 Lisa Ann Edwards