By Bill Edmonds
In 1901, Charles R. Walgreen opened a drug store on the corner of Bowen Avenue and Cottage Grove in Chicago. Within 12 years he had four stores on Chicago’s South Side.
In June of 2018, Mr. Walgreen’s chain of pharmacies replaced long running stalwart General Electric on the Dow Jones Industrial Index, ending the iconic light bulb and jet engine manufacturer’s 111-year run. To borrow a reference to famed Chicago White Sox Shoeless Joe Jackson; “Say it ain’t so, Joe!”
GE became a member of the Dow in November of 1907. Adjusted for splits, the price of GE stock is trading at roughly the same price today that it was in January of 1993, at around $7 per share. What happened?
I had a mentor who used to say to me, “No tree grows to the sky.” He was right. Some trees keep growing but many of the mighty oaks fall. They fall due to poor decisions by leaders who are out of touch with reality. In 2014, with oil at $100 per barrel, GE bought nine businesses in the oil and gas industry. That’s just one blunder. They also managed to blow up their financial services business, which had once been a jewel in their shiny crown.
What’s the lesson for business practitioners like you and I?
Keep moving, learning, creating, and dreaming. What’s “always been” won’t “always be” without some thoughtfulness about the future and without an assessment of the current reality. The best practitioners are not hoarding fossil fuels in the age of Tesla. Their spending time with other business practitioners in the same industry and across industry lines. The HR business owner is learning from the Financial Advisor…the Financial Advisor from the manufacturer…the manufacturer from the landscape architect… the landscape architect from the CPA…and so on.
What are they learning? They are learning the way other business owners do the three most important things that all business owners and entrepreneurs must do:
- Grow their business– increase sales
- Keep the business they have– service their customers and clients at ever increasing standards of excellence
- Make money– Increase their margins
No matter what industry you’re in there are two things all business owners and practitioners must excel in:
- Organizational Growth– building your teams for maximum efficiency, productivity, and execution, and…
- Professional Development– uncovering the resources to develop yourself into the person you’re yet to be.
One of the best ways to do this is through “community.” Maybe a community of likeminded individuals engaged in the same industry is best for you – a place to hone your technical, industry specific crafts. Perhaps a group of non-competing business owners is the right fit – one where you learn best practices about people skills and decision-making. Regardless of which is best for you, it’s the secret sauce to taking your business to the next level.
Don’t fall with the mighty whimper of a $7 stock that personifies the mighty oak that once was. There’s a Walgreen’s that wants to replace your “corner” of the market and they’ll do it on your corner with your patrons unless you are intentional.
“Yes Joe, it IS so!” The frontier still exists, but you’ve got to find it.
Your business won’t grow to the sky unless you prune and water it the right way. The stakes are high and any missteps could be devastating to you. Don’t go it alone! Everybody needs a coach, a community, and a course of action. Which is missing from your life and your business?
Bill Edmonds is the owner of Northstar Leadership and The Alternative Board (TAB). He is an executive coach and business consultant who provides coaching and peer advisory board leadership to forward-thinking business owners who are ready to take their business to the next level.