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Friday, Jan 27, 2023
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A Change in Perspective Among Local Businesspeople

Editor, Jason Schaff In my recent meetings with business owners and managers whether it has been through one-on-one contacts or at networking events, I’ve been asked the same question several times: What’s 2010 looking like for the local economy and for businesses? My first response to the businessperson asking the question is: How are things at your business and in your industry? And this is what I’m finding – there’s been a big change in perspective among local businesspeople over the past year or so as the economy slumped and things got very, very difficult. This change seems to be across the board in all industries and professions. So, what is that change in perspective? It’s multi-faceted, but if you boil it down to one thing I guess it would be realism. Not to say that local businesspeople weren’t realistic in the years leading up to the downturn, it’s just that some of them were living in the moment and expecting things to keep booming forever. Here’s a list of the elements that make up the change in perspective of local business owners and managers. Feel free to add and refute. These are just my observations: They’re thinking about the future every single day. Many that didn’t have any type of five or ten-year plan have one now. It may not be written down in detail but it’s pretty well firmed up in their mind. And they know that most of the decisions they make in any given day need to take the future into consideration. The rules of engagement are different. In other words, owners and managers are more willing to talk about their business problems with outsiders. There’s less BS in conversations. Because they know that other people suspect business may not be very good and they will look silly if they say that it is. If there is one positive thing the downturn brought about it is that businesspeople are more willing to actively seek help from other businesspeople either through organized networking or just casual conversation. Everybody has been in the same boat so we’re all more comfortable with each other. Things are more immediate. Whether it be looking for little ways to cut costs or dealing with human resources problems, owners and managers aren’t putting things off as much as they did in the past. They all know that it’s the little things that can bog a manager down and these little things can distract them from growing their business. There’s a stronger focus on innovation and creativity. Even owners of places such as auto body shops which provide basic services that customers can’t do without know that they must make themselves distinctive. Customers are a lot more choosy than they were in the past and they’ll just go somewhere else unless they really feel the service is special or different. A Brave New World. People who have been downsized by companies or are losing their businesses are fearlessly setting out and starting new businesses. There’s something about not having any security – you do things you ordinarily wouldn’t do when you are fat and happy. You have much less to lose. It’s only natural. So, those are the top five. It is a brand new day in business but some of the old problems exist, the biggest one being how to create more jobs. Time magazine’s current issue has a pretty interesting and very relevant story about jobs – where they are and how to get them. As other economic signals have improved, the jobs problem is still horrible. The magazine article states that there’s only so much the government can do to create jobs in the short term other than throwing some money at the problem. The fruits of government initiatives in trade, education etc. take a long time to be realized. This leaves private enterprise as the only place to create jobs immediately. But creating jobs is a tricky thing. A company must know exactly what products or services are in demand and what is the cheapest way to deliver them. Perhaps there should be a local jobs summit where representatives of private enterprise get together and brainstorm how to move our economy in the direction of creating more jobs. This could include the introduction of new industries to the area or vastly reconfiguring the industries that currently exist. Business Journal Editor Jason Schaff can be reached at (818) 316-3125 or at editor@sfvbj.com.

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