Thoughts on change

Happy Friday.

Have you noticed that many people are afraid of change?  That somehow the way it was is good enough and so should be continued into the future unnecessary.  Or worse, because it didn’t work before it can’t work today.   While looking back at history is a decent guide to making a decision, it cannot be the only tool we use when deciding how we should do things today.  Or tomorrow.  Things are changing and small business has to get on top of this or suffer the consequences.

Last night Kubae and I had dinner with Wes and Dianne – good friends for many years.  We got onto the topic of change – technically we were discussing the Brexit and the Trump issue – and the things that both sides had in common.  Dianne pointed out that that the supporters of both movements lived in fear of the change that is happening.  Kubae then pointed out that it isn’t just the change but the pace of change that is possibly a driver.

The pace of change. I think they are onto something.

Look at the last 100 years. in 100 years we have gone from being essentially foot-mobile to autonomous vehicles.  We have gone from handwritten letters to text messages.  We have gone from biplanes to space shuttles. All this in 100 years.

Look at the last 50 years. We have gone from 3 major automobile manufacturers to 15. From leaded gasoline to electric and solar. From princess phones to Bluetooth.  From large global mass manufacturing to 3D printing of single pieces.  Amazing changes in my lifetime.

As an accountant, I am a trained historian.  Historians look at the past and try to make sense of it.  All accounting is really is ensuring that the business history (its transactions) are recorded clearly and concisely for future use.  History is useful but I have found that history alone is insufficient to help chart a course of action.

As a business developer, I am a futurist.  A futurist looks at today and asks how it might look tomorrow.  A futurist needs history to provide a starting point and trends that can help guess what tomorrow will look like.  Guessing about the future is fun, although it is often seen as science fiction or worse a waste of time.

And yet, a futurist is a planner.  Businesses must plan what their future is going to look like and then remain flexible enough to adapt to the unforeseen changes and also record things so that the historical reality can be compared to that future guess.

And this is the rub isn’t it?  I have often joked that I think most small business owners are frustrated accountants. They love the history of their business -how hard they’ve worked, how much money they’ve made.  But when asked what the future holds for their business, the response is typically, “same as last year but add 10%”.  That might have worked in 1960, but I don’t think this is going to hold true in 2020; and that is only 4 years away.

That’s right. four short years.  Are you asking yourself what your business is going to look like with

  • Drones doing delivery
  • cars that drive themselves
  • trucks that drive themselves
  • equipment that warns before it malfuctions
  • a printer that can make parts by adding and not subtracting raw materials
  • energy without being connected to the power grid
  • food grown locally instead of on large farms and trucked
  • and a million other things

This is the easily predicted future because most of this is here now.   What about the things we haven’t even dreamed of yet?  Are you positioning your business to be part of these changes or are you going to defiantly wave your buggy-whip until the end?

Typically, I would sign off by suggesting you have a conversation with your accountant, but not today.  Take someone two generations removed from you out to lunch and ask them these questions.  Find a good science fiction book and read about what their vision of the future looks like.  Let your mind explore the fascinating potential that your business has before it and start thinking about your future. Because it doesn’t have to be about fearing the change – it can be about embracing it.

Have a great weekend.




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