The Price of Stagnancy

Your great-grandparents shopped at Sears when we were young, Vera. It was the department store. Appliances, tools, outdoor gear, sporting goods, shoes, clothing, etc. — you name it, America shopped there. A hundred years ago, you could even buy a house there (do-it-yourself kit). But, today, it’s near death. Today, it announced another massive decline in sales and more store closings. The outcome is clear: the chain will be gone. Soon.

I’ve seen it play out in other industries, just not retail. All kinds of industrial companies. Law firms. Accounting firms. Hospitals. Colleges. The graveyard of business, industry and nonprofits is full of enterprises that didn’t make it.

Sometimes, technology claimed them. There isn’t anything the buggy makers could have done to stave off obsolescence (although the buggy makers could have pursued a different line of work before it was too late). Much of the time, though, there was something that could have been done. It simply wasn’t.

Inertia is a powerful force. People don’t like change. But if enterprises don’t change, they put themselves at risk. The same goes for people, especially in the 21st century when technology and globalization are daily transforming the workplace and markets.

Snuggling in is comfortable for many people, even when the risk to themselves is — or should be — obvious. Sometimes, I’m not sure whether they don’t see it, or see it and don’t care — don’t care because the thought of changing is too unsettling.

In any case, in this world of ours, Vera, there is always someone after your business and most likely after your job. Each day you’ve got to earn the right to keep it.

The price of stagnancy is economic death. Just ask all the people who used to work and shop at Sears. If you can find them.

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