April 18, 2014

Small Business Advice

Be alert to changes, trends in your industry

"The most interesting information comes from children, for they tell all they know and then stop." ~Mark Twain

Jerry Osteryoung | 6/10/2013

The world is changing so fast around us that businesses must watch the horizon for coming trends and changes.

Technology brings many of these changes, but even without technology’s influence, the onslaught of government regulations has made running a business much more complex and dynamic than it has been in the past.

To deal with a constantly evolving environment, communication — both incoming and outgoing — is more important than ever. You need to be sure you are communicating to your customers and are taking in new information about the economy and your industry, all at breakneck speeds.

In recent years, financial institutions — both credit unions and banks — have seen the number of regulations multiply at an almost incomprehensible rate. There are new loan regulations, new rules on loan write-downs and so much more.

To give an example, I serve as chair of the First Commerce Credit Union board. First Commerce now has a lawyer whose full-time job is to make sure we are in compliance with all these rules and regulations. Three years ago, we did not have this position.

In addition, the typical consumer at a financial institution is changing in significant ways. The new banking customer is much younger and is very comfortable with technology.

In recent years, many banks have sold off branches and now invest in new technology, such as online bill pay and mobile banking, to satisfy the new generation of customers.

Borders Bookstores presents another good example. They, along with many other retail book stores, were pulled under by their failure to watch and adjust to the trend of customers getting most any book at any time via the Internet.

The handwriting was on the wall for at least five years. Amazon acted on these trends, while traditional bookstores ignored them thinking that people would always want a printed copy. In the end, this incorrect assumption proved to be a costly mistake for the shareholders, employees and vendors of these retailers.

The point here is that consumer preferences change and you need to keep a close watch on them so you can respond accordingly. There are many, many areas you need to look at, and this information is not hard to come by. When I typed “Where to find business trends?” into Google, it came up with over a half a million hits.

It is critical that you keep track of trends wherever they arise. Since they frequently occur outside your operating area, you must watch for these changes at the international, national, regional, state and local levels.

Now go out and make sure that you have a system in place to keep tabs on changes in the industry. This is vital to the longevity of your business.

You can do this!


Other small business advice columns from Dr. Osteryoung are here. Note: Articles older than 30 days require registration (it's quick and free).

Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses - he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of The Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His newest book co-authored with Tim O'Brien, "If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book," is an Amazon.com bestseller. He can be reached by e-mail at jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com.

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