April 19, 2010

All around us, we see the world has changed. In the late 1990s, we anxiously awaited the “New Millennium”; after 9/11, we prepared for the “New Normal”; then despite knowing we were traversing through an artificial bubble, we waited for our turn to become financially independent and able to live that coveted life of leisure, and today, we are struggling with just what is the “New Economy”.

Most of us would not score high points for assessing and adapting to what goes by a lot of names but is simply the ever-evolving and changing world in which we live. Over decades, centuries and even millenniums, there are those who welcome change and push forward, and there are those of us that are sure we are on the brink of the end of the world in total because we see changes that do not fit within our own paradigms. In the end, for those of us who do not change, our own world does eventually end.

Today, the news is filled with stories of companies, banks and investment firms that combined greed with change and found a way to justify fraud, ponzi schemes, and excessive risk as they put themselves first. Then the bubble burst, brought the firms and investors down and threatened the well-being of our country.

In another example, as change brought dwindling sales, one company closed their national sales offices, tried to reinvent themselves overnight, pretending to be something they were not as they tried to survive. It wasn’t long before they were sold off for pennies.

As the world changed, one company chose, not to change their thinking, but to change only their vocabulary and moved from an open dislike of an evolving industry to calling an out-dated version of their own available product by the name of the growing industry. Thinking one can trick its customers has led them to live today, on the brink of disaster.

Protecting one’s current position in an industry immobilizes some; aversion to risk discourages others. And some simply are hanging on to the thought that “everything old is new again”-just trying to wait it out, as they complain and exclaim, “poor me”.

But yesterday, an inspiring Strib story concerning Deluxe Corporation illustrates a successful method to weather change.

Deluxe- the company formerly known as Deluxe Checks- was heavily impacted; not by a downturn in the economy, but by an upturn in technology. As online banking and check cards grew and use of checks dwindled, Deluxe revenues fell. They understood they could not just hang on until that old check system recycled and flourished again. But they also understood they had some time. So they looked for and found a niche among their customers and are now moving to build themselves into a one-stop shop for a variety of services for small business owners. Check-printing still represents 60% of their business, but their long-term vision is allowing them to leverage the old so they can finance and grow the new. In short, they recognized change, and then proactively and positively prepared for it. Their investors agreed; their stock rose.

This is not just a story about our clients; this is a story applicable to the event industry as a whole. We have had ten years to prepare for the changes that have been evolving in corporate and non-profit meetings and events. How well did we observe the signs, recognize change was coming, and move forward proactively and positively to support purposeful, measureable, experiential events? Nowhere in the foreseeable future will delivering an event for event-sake be the norm. Change does not happen to fit our own timetables. We need to weather this change by becoming a part of it, so that the world does not move on without us.

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