I have always been very adamant about the direction, goals and focus of my business, never letting anyone or anything change that. I realize now that’s a mistake. If you notice, most older business owners think they have their formulas patented when it comes to the success of their business and we don’t. Trends change and we have to be willing to keep up with them and to keep learning or we stop growing. EBONY magazine is struggling and I remember I stopped reading that magazine in the 80s because it never moved past that period. The stories were boring and predictable and the owner John H. Johnson thought the formula that he had been using for decades would continue to work forever and it didn’t. The magazine didn’t hone in early on technology and quickly fell from grace. They have been struggling for years finally making the changes when it was WAY too late. Readers had moved on long before. They want to stick to the tried and true from 65 years ago and do business the way they had always done it. That’s an immediate recipe for failure and disaster.
We get older and we are out of touch if we don’t surround ourselves with education. I passed a music store the other day while walking down the street and the owners where well into their 60s and they had a dirty beige carpet on the floor and paneling on the walls from the 70s (remember that fake wood paneling). There was not one sole customer in the store. Next door was a Mac repair store that was very state of the art, they were packed. As business owners we realize how important our businesses are to us, we are married to them and they are our children. When someone insults your children by saying they are misbehaving you are apt to stand up in defense of your child but what if they really ARE misbehaving?
A man who has rarely been supportive of my businesses and I had a long conversation yesterday and he insulted my business, so I thought when he compared me to other urban industry sites that I don’t consider to be competition for me. Long ago, I surmised he was an arrogant bastard who wanted to see me fail instead of someone who was willing to take the time to tell me the truth. Clients who pay us are certainly valuable but so are the clients who don’t do business with us… especially when we can find out WHY. Yesterday I did something different, I shut up and listened to this man. I took the emotion out and heard what he said for the first time and when he was done, I realized there were at least two or three things that he was right about when it came to my business. Things that I had never explored and needed to in order to grow.
The one thing that older people do which often makes us unemployable is we are indeed set in our ways and not willing to learn or listen to anyone younger. Just about EVERY person that I know who is over 45 is like that and they wonder why they can’t get any work. This man is actually older than me but he works in another part of the industry that is one of my targets. He comes face to face with this side of the industry everyday whereas it much more rare for me. Today I’m working on implementing those changes to grow my business and at the end of the day, I greatly appreciate what he had to say. Sometimes you have to just shut up and listen and realize value is not always monetary.