April 2, 2012

Identifying the Opportunity - Having a Vision - The Cause (not the effect)

I am writing this specific to the local printing market, but the concepts and the decisions apply to business in general as this blog entry demonstrates.

Prior to the 1960s, most home town business was locally owned and managed  - a time long gone.  We remember (some of us) the local pharmacist, the diner, the tailor, the cleaners, the corner store, the local printer, etc...  We then experienced a transformation where enterprising individuals (opportunists) expanded their businesses by packaging their business such that it could be sold to individuals looking for opportunities in distant locations. The 1950s and 1960s were the "Wild-Wild-West" era of franchising - minimal regulation and scams in a "buyer-beware" world.  The boom in franchising began.  Franchising brought us (arguably) consistent quality, business buying power and trusted/recognized brands.  With time, regulations from the FTC and its state equivalents made the purchase of a franchise much more transparent if only by making cost-of-entry so much higher.

The Internet era brought new competition; "local" was redefined as being as close as your computer.  Regulations ended up not being needed, even though they were frequently brought up and discussed.  The Internet (as a market) has evolved into a self-regulated market with minimal government regulation (not making a political argument here).  The 1990s and early 2000s were the Internets "Wild-Wild-West" era; today, we have evolved, like franchising evolved, into a market where we have trusted shopping locations, consistent quality and trusted brands.

The bad side of the Internet, IMHO, is the elimination of local service in business transactions that require service (again IMHO).  I have a story that should hit home pretty hard.  Remember the Hobby Shop?  I was in one in South Florida in, I think around 2002,  I witnessed the owner becoming very upset with a consumer who was a slot car enthusiast.  The consumer, I guess, would frequently come in, evaluate a products quality and suck knowledge and demonstration from the store owner and then buy the product online for the purpose of saving $3 on a $30 item.  What I witnessed was the store owner losing-it and kicking the consumer out of the store.  Who won here?  The store eventually went out of business and the consumer lost their ability to touch and evaluate the product before buying it.  Bought one of those radio-controlled helicopters lately? - Junk.!.!  Even worse, they cost more for the return shipping than original cost of the product... ugh..!!

How is the local printing market similar to this?  Next entry...