Widgets Magazine

Disrupt Thyself

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During periods of uncertainty and upheaval, it’s a good reminder to evolve before your competition

Back in the late ’90s, when my husband and I were still unsure where our relationship was going, we were enjoying our Friday night Blockbuster ritual. For all you young ones, back then you went to the video store and pursued the aisles looking for a movie we could agree upon. If the few copies of your desired film were missing, you might wait near the door in hopes that someone would return your coveted VHS or DVD so you could swoop in to grab it.

After waiting in line to check out, the clerk recommends that next time we sign up for home delivery instead of waiting. We joked with the employee; he was putting himself out of business. I suppose that the nugget of information never made its way to the top tier because they did.

Enter Netflix, a DVD delivery company. I never really liked them when they started. Each day is different. How was I to know that this particular Friday I would want that new action-adventure and not the latest rom-com? Finally, the ability to rent online was born, and I’ve never looked back. I never had an issue paying a little more to get what I wanted.  I have not connected a DVD player to my home system in over ten years.

Owning a business is hard. You’re dealing with daily emergencies, making sure your clients are happy, and doing the multitude of obligations you would rather not be doing. And yet, if we get stuck in this, if we don’t lift our perspective to see what could be next, we are sure to drown.

I purchased Southtown Audio Video from my father, and one of his tips during the 13 plus years I worked for him was ‘change or die.’ He went from a Hi-Fi shop to installing large satellite dishes to even renting Beta and VHS (before Blockbuster existing).  Since 1984, SAV has had a retail shop. We survived through road construction, the 2008 downturn, Walmart’s opening down the street, and even hobbled along watching Amazon gain steam. A few years back, while we still had our retail shop, a mentor of mine asked, “Are you sure your retail isn’t a distraction?” I was complaining that the customers that still made their way into our store often were not clients, but unsatisfied online or big-box clients looking for free advice. When I suggested we send a tech, they would grumble, “can’t you just tell me?”

So, we redesigned from a mom-and-pop to an Experience Center available by appointment only, and our relationship-residential clients flourish.

Today, amidst a global Pandemic, we must look to forecast what is next. How will people shop? How can we make them comfortable when we are in their business or homes? We must disrupt ourselves to survive.

The local farm to table restaurant down the street did not shrink when NY Paused. Instead, they sold bottles of premade drinks at $50 plus and started offering some of the sides they’re known for as a to-go option at a premium price. Between the 50% capacity and to-go offerings, they’re numbers are as substantial as last year.

Ask yourself, what can you do to help solve the new problems arising. How can you help the work-from-home crowd? How can you create a simple to use hybrid conference room as we know it will be a while before all those seats are full. The world we are today will not be the same world tomorrow, and if we want to continue to play within it, we need to adapt – now.


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