Are You Building a Business That Can Stay in Business?

(My column as it appeared in Upmarket magazine week of March 25th)

What’s becoming apparent across the business landscape is many new entrepreneurs are building businesses for the purpose of not being beholden to any so-called boss. They see that the old model of a “job” is either dead or dying and rightly so are venturing out looking to take control of their own destiny. However what many are not realizing is they may be just changing one taskmaster for another without being aware.

In today’s world one of the unquestionable benefits we are currently enjoying is the plethora of tools that allow a business to start-up, augment, research, or just plain operate for absolutely free. It’s a time in history that has never been so rich with options and yet that list seems to be getting larger with even better tools, but there is a side that most pay no attention to. “What would happen to your business if tomorrow what was now free ended and you needed to now pay for it? Or worse, was no longer available.” Not some distance in the future but let’s say next week or month. What would you do?

Many believe things like this would never happen and brush it off as crazy talk, but I contend if you’re brushing it off you could find yourself at the edge of a very scary black hole when you least expect it. Just ask any Amazon® affiliate caught in the tax debacle that happened in California. In the blink of an eye thousands found that they were basically out of business with no recourse. What would happen if Google® decided tomorrow to charge for their mail service, or their doc’s platform? What would you do? Don’t say it would never happen. Google has a history of deleting or changing them. The latest example of this can be found if you don’t like their new privacy policy that affects all of their widgets. Do you stay as your customers leave or vice versa? Would you pour more of your resources and energy in Twitter® if next month you had to pay per word but could use as many as you like rather than limited to how many you’re allowed for free? Would you even use it at all if that were the case?

There have been some recent cases where Apple® has arbitrarily pulled some very popular podcasts from their service for what they deemed “unauthorized” Apple logos or pictures. Even a picture of a real apple was questioned. Pleading your case and trying to get reinstated is an arduous process and still may not be enough to resume. These courts answer to themselves not to anyone else. Rightly or wrongly, “It is what it is.” But just how would you continue if you no longer had access to the service is my point? Would you continue? Could you? You need to think about these scenarios if you want to be a business. Just because you may not operate in the old world of bricks and mortar does not mean you can escape a fundamental principle of business.

People scoffed at similar notions when I expressed and wrote about what businesses in the brick and mortar realm should contemplate when Greece first showed signs of unrest, months before anyone even heard of the Occupy movement or the mayhem that followed. (So much so I re-posted it when OWS troubles first appeared.) Businesses suddenly found themselves closed, unreachable, or worse. So I ask you to contemplate the most fundamental business principle.

What’s your plan to stay in business? Because anything can happen, and usually does!

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr