Currently I have been doing market research online to prepare for the launch of a business. In doing so I have been startled to find that maybe (only a maybe), there is more trouble in Small and Midsize business than we realize. In the coming weeks I will add blogs to update my findings. The topic will be called BusinessScape. I will be posting these blogs in the BusinessScape category and add a page/tab for the project.
I have noticed the dismal “scape” of the small business web in general. As usual there are a lot of sites on the web, some new, some old, but what’s missing are freshness, content, and development of business ideas and concepts. Everything seems very stale, surprisingly so. As compared to large corporations like Yahoo, Caterpillar, Apple, and much more, the small and midsize web sites are just not keeping up. At one point they led the way for web development. If they slow down or stop now, that’s not a good sign!
This trend could simply be complacency or it could be a sign of lack of time and funding for web-based activity. Looking today at http://foxnews.com and the lead story about damage from mortgage crisis, as well as other articles this past week regarding jobs, politics and much more, it seems that watching the largest corporations and their earnings reports is completely out of touch with over 50% of the population, the portion which represents small-midsize business. Another issue could be the currently poor quality of web site design tools and the high cost of site design based on the need for multiple scripting languages, and more robust hardware to keep up with the bloat of web graphics, operating systems, and multi-platform software. I feel web design tools have not kept up with their potential at all, it’s a mess, and large companies now have the advantage in cost point for development of good quality web sites.
This past week I noticed a company I am very familiar with had filed Chapter 11. The company was in a unique space with great opportunity and little could have slowed it down except for a prolonged flat to down market. This company provided patented products to very large companies, most of which had little alternative but to purchase these products and services in order to expand at a reasonable cost. Knowing the business as I do, this particular failure bothers me in the sense that if they can’t make it, then who can on the development and opportunity side? In other words, if they can’t expand then maybe nobody really can for now. Only low-priced consumer markets can expand. This isn’t entirely shocking.
Have we seen the end of the downturn or have we only seen the end of the beginning of it? Time will tell. So far, with the current trend to follow poor economic policy it is fairly certain that this downturn will last a while longer. Our economists like to say an event ends as the bottom of a cycle, like hitting the low on the Dow, but really a downturn isn’t over until we return to previous market levels and standards of living. By then the Dow may be well above previous highs but the standard of living may not reach its previous level for many more years. To make my point, imagine that you purchased a stock at its high several years ago. It lost 80% and now is only half-way back to its high. Would you feel you are doing good just because it isn’t at the low, or would you still feel it will not be good until it reaches the point where you purchased it?
I will be interviewing business owners this week to get their take on the BusinessScape and will write as I feel I have relevant information. Keep in mind that this study will be mostly in the Kansas City area but will also cover some other parts of the country as time permits.