From the (Urban Dictionary):
In contrast to what you might think about a claustrophobic reference, the “walls are closing in” actually means that someone was home for so long that they start coming up with dumb ideas. This usually happens when students are unemployed over winter break/summer or when adults are on medical disability. The absence of sunlight into the home enables Vitamin D deficiency, which in turn results in someone coming up with ideas that would have otherwise not even come to mind.
Remember sales reps? They were legendary for eating hot pies, talking on the car phone (remember those) while driving at 130kmh. They had a territory of small country towns where they would charm the owners and staff of small businesses; and take orders. They also introduced new products and trends. Just like international flight attendants did with popular culture. Now of course the likes of Amazon, Bunnings and Instagram have changed everything.
What I find interesting is watching how SMEs adjust to the new circumstances. Especially the SMEs in small country towns. Things move less quickly in the country, and most of the residents like it that way, so you can see delayed responses to the things that probably affected your business some time ago.
It’s also more likely that people retire to rural areas, and their retirement spending makes up a large proportion of the local economies, often decimated by the loss of manufacturing jobs. Retired people are more likely to prefer more traditional ways of doing things. And perhaps less likely to do anything, beyond muttering, about crap service and infrastructure. Else hospitals emergency wait times would be as good as urban ones.
They grew up in a less complex time when marketing messages were simple and effective. Like these brilliant Coke adds…………….
So How Can You Get A Handle On All This for Your Business?
There are some amazing SMEs in country towns, and some make serious coin. But what about the ones doing it tough? What can we learn from them?
I have always suspected that if you see a business branch out into a new, unrelated, activity, like a clothes shop opening a cafe, there was a big chance it was like a plant flowering before it died. More likely any new venture has a very high risk of failing even if the existing business was successful.
Success of SMEs is strongly linked to your skills and experience in a particular field. Don’t open a cafe if you have no hospitality experience.
What I can tell you, as a consultant, is that, unlike the photograph of the car above, the walls do not appear to be straight lines. They wobble wildly in and out with sickening swings from despair to hope and back. I can also tell you, accountant hat on, that they probably are straight but the numbers are wobbly.
I know I keep banging on about this but you have to respond to trends, and to do that, you need to be able to see trends in your numbers. Especially in your margins. One alphabetical page, once a year, is not enough.