Saturday, July 23, 2011

Contrasts of three businesses, and what will the future bring?

The bookstore giant Borders is going out of business and is for all intents and purposes a failed business. It is reported that the decision makers at Borders made a series of bad decisions over many years. They initially farmed out to Amazon their online sales when they should have been growing their own website. They invested heavily in music CDs just as the market for CDs was collapsing. Their heavy investment in large stores in malls across the country saddled them with real estate commitments that kept them from being flexible and adjustable to changing conditions.

Elliot Handler died recently, at age 95. Mr. Handler and his wife grew a different business. It was named Mattel. Mattel began as a small home-based picture-frame business that branched into toys. They created a brand of small cars, Hot Wheels. Mrs. Handler created the Barbie doll in 1959 and named it after their daughter. The Handlers made different business decisions than did Borders, with very different results.

Nancy and I own and manage our single-location religious bookstore. It remains a ministry for us as well as a business. Almost daily we are confronted with decisions that would affect the future of the ministry and the business. Do we try to compete on price with the Big Boys? Can we afford to offer discounts like many big retailers or will we continue to offer our books at fair market prices and help assure the continuing progress of this endeavor? Should we increase our take home pay to be comparable to other businesses or keep the money in the business to keep it healthy?

We exist in a niche market. So far any attempts to step out of our niche market have not been beneficial. We like our niche market. We have no desire to become either a Borders or a Mattel. We love our customers and our staff. Both are the best that we could imagine a business having. In putting our customers and our staff first we think that we will be able to continue as a healthy business for a while longer. And who can really expect more than that?

Who can know what will happen, even after August 2nd and the decision by the federal government to either raise the debt ceiling or not to? Will we survive if the country encounters a financial collapse? What happens to this ministry which is the store if our individual health suffers a major collapse? We continue to plan for a healthy future, as individuals and as a ministry and business, but who knows when events outside of our store will impact us all? So, we continue on in faith, trusting that good will come out of whatever happens, as we always have.

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