Let’s pretend you are standing in the middle of the train tracks… and you see a very slow moving train that is going to hit you… in ten years.

What do you do?

From what I can tell in some companies, the answer is to sit and complain about how no one stops trains anymore.

Not exactly proactive.

I’m looking at some of you, publications.
Some of you, malls.
Some of you, chambers of commerce.
I’m also looking at you grocery stores, electronics stores, and basically anyone affected by Amazon, which is pretty much anyone that does retail (and increasingly services).

So the train is coming at all of us in some way… and we can just stand there and watch it, try to stop the train (good luck with that), or get ourselves out of the way.

The last choice is clearly the most logical. It is also the one we literally have the most control over.

And the great news? We have a lot more lead time about the train these days. The beauty is with the internet, because we are getting instant feedback, we can also see subtle shifts a lot sooner (and a lot less expensively) than we could otherwise. 

So not only can you know sooner but we also have more tools than ever to get out of the train’s way.

I’ve seen people get really creative in a few ways:

  • Using space in different ways, whether it is letting people sleep there or changing the rent model to something like shared revenue or making pop up stores or workspace. I recently ran into a movie theater that is also a coworking space in a town I recently visited. A bit odd? Yes. But does it keep the theater economically viable while also filling a community need? Definitely.
  • Shifting away from memberships/subscriptions to other (and complimentary) revenue streams like events, conferences, and information, “vaults”of valuable niche information that can be searched/accessed anytime. Talking to the Bucksport Bay Chamber of Commerce, who operate in the black, I learned they saw the train coming and decided they would start hosting events to compliment their work with members about four years ago. They even operate their own small business as part of their revenue streams.
  • Offering different versions of products, like web ads that go with print ads or dividing large spaces into smaller ones for lower rent. So if no one is buying your thing, you gotta give them a different thing. At Anchorspace when we noticed our $350 membership was not working our first six months of operation (nothing like making $1000 a month when your rent is double that), we created a $100 membership where people could come in during regular office hours. This kept us from having to increase staff demands and kept desks open while meeting a need. We now have as many people at the $100 level as we do at the $350 level.
  • Changing business models from a business one to a non-profit or community owned model. I’ve seen this more with newspapers but there would be nothing wrong with looking at changing out your model if it fills a need in your community, region, or cause… which I think most businesses do. By being shareholder, government, or non-profit run, this could allow for additional funding sources, volunteer support, and other ways to sustain.
  • Offering value added services, whether it’s a personal shopping service with curbside pickup or even selling gift certificates on behalf of businesses. Our local grocery store chain is pioneering a shopping service where you can give people your list and pick up your groceries for a $25 fee. Amazon isn’t picking out your avocados yet so our local grocery store is filling the need.

This may sound harsh, but consider it a bit of tough love. But in a world of:

  • endless possibilities/ideas you can try for cheap or on a small scale
  • people that can get behind what you are trying to do if a) they know what it is and b) how they can help.
  • ways to take the pressure off having to earn income from your business like side hustles (for a moment or two anyway) while you solve the problems

…we have SO MANY WAYS to get out of the way of the oncoming train. 

And while I am compassionate about people in the middle of the tracks at any given moment, I feel excitement seeing people getting out of the way and coming up with an even better scenario than previously imagined. I am the kind of person who needs a problem in my face to innovate and I don’t think I am an exception in that.

So if you see a train coming at you, very slowly, what are you going to do in 2018 to get out of the way?

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