The British have an expression, "state of play," which is genius on a number of different levels. Loosely translated, it means "current situation." But in the subtext conveys a suggestion of action that the current situation is naturally in a state of flux -- like a soccer game. This is not only accurate, but demonstrates a clever economy of words.
The state-of-play idea is exactly what many in businesses, both large and small, seem to miss. Looking over the today's business landscape, they see a static, unmoving image. Their view of the environment resembles a snapshot (even a selfie) that captures a single moment in time. Of course, nothing could be more deceptive or just plain wrong. The business environment is in a constant state of play, acted upon by all manner of influences, including the economy, news, weather, politics and technological advances, to name just a few.
In this respect, most businesses are analogous to Wall Street, where the price of stocks is in a continual state of play as they increase and decrease in value. Businesses exhibit the same dynamics, though usually much less dramatically.
For this reason, the smart business owner should not expect to run his business in the same way as he does now in 20 years or even 10 years -- or, perhaps, next month. To understand this enables one not only assess and analyze, but also to "problem-solve" in an entirely different way.
To be clear, perceiving a static situation usually means that a business owner or manager will resolve any given problem by implementing a fix that will be short-term. Inevitably, more problems arise over the long run, because the circumstances are different. Those problems could have been avoided if that inevitable change had been taken into account.
For businesses that deal directly with consumers, the need to understand the state of play is particularly important. Skill crane operators have long known this. Smart bulk vending operators who have seen trend cycles dramatically shrink over the past several years also have adjusted accordingly.
Consumer tastes can change within weeks, prompted by the release of a new movie or the latest song. Good crane and bulk operators can judge the probable lifespan of a product licensed from a popular movie, or make adjustments for the change of seasons. I have also recently witnessed operators taking a second or third look at previously unprofitable locations. Timing is everything, even when it comes to location trends.
Those who have been in the business long enough can recall many of these shifts. The bulk vending industry, for instance, evolved to the point of using processes that very much resemble just-in-time manufacturing. It did not happen overnight, but product began to move in and out of warehouses at a faster pace. Service schedules shifted to reflect the changing nature of product. And operators became more willing to try new product categories with less hesitation and delay.
These are not small changes. Today's most successful bulk vending operations run much differently than those of the past. These changes have required significant upgrades in infrastructure and ways of doing business. It is fair to say that many of those who were unwilling or unable to make necessary changes are either facing imminent failure or no longer in business.
All this is neither good nor bad. It is simply the way things work. As the saying goes, "He who rejects change is the architect of decay." Now, if we could just get the British to understand that soccer is really not football.