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Smith: In business, as in baseball, the ‘norm’ has changed

POSTED: January 20, 2008 5:04 a.m.

As a lifelong follower of baseball, I watched the findings of George Mitchell’s report of drugs in baseball with interest. Was I surprised at the list of names? Not particularly. It reminded me that today’s world is no longer business as usual.

Growing up in Mobile, Ala., I idolized ball players from my hometown. Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey, Satchel Paige, Frank Bolling, Billy Williams, Cleon Jones and others were all bigger than life. In my adult life, I must admit that I have become somewhat cynical and lost that hero worship naiveté. It is important that you as a business person also be wise to the ways of the world.

There are many reasons why we no longer do business as our parents did. Here are a few thoughts on why.

Probably more than any other factor, technology has and will continue to alter how business is conducted. From communications to creativity to changing a purchase order, technology dictates the way that we do business. The time will come when businesses will be faced with a decision, either use technology or go out of business.

Business is global in nature. All businesses today are impacted to some degree by events around the globe. Perhaps you are competing on a bid with a company from Europe or Asia. What Middle Eastern nations decide to charge for a barrel of crude oil equates to what you are charged to fill up your delivery truck. A natural disaster in Central or South America controls the cost of products at the grocery store.

Competition. Just as professional athletes use steroids to gain an advantage, your competition will try to get an edge on you if given the chance. It could be as innocent as hearing a comment at the Kiwanis Club meeting or something more devious as hiring away a key employee. Everyone doesn’t always play by the rules.

What have you done for me lately? Save the scrapbook for the grandchildren and retirement. Business today is all about productivity and the bottom line.

The bank. This is not your father’s bank. The day when you called your banker and requested a loan based solely on your character is in the past. With increased competition and stricter regulations, going to the bank today is based on your credit score, collateral, cash flow and how you manage your business as well as character.

J.C. Smith is a consultant for the Gainesville district office of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center, 770-531-5681. His column appears Tuesdays and at gainesvilletimes.com.



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