Living the perilous dream

Needless to say, I’ve had plenty of free advice about how to proceed.

I’ve been thinking a lot about change these days, for some pretty obvious reasons, I suppose. After all, it’s not every day that someone decides to completely and totally change the way in which they make a living.

Taking a community newspaper and turning it into a community magazine has been a pretty interesting, exciting and trying process during these past few months. Needless to say, I’ve had plenty of free advice about how to proceed.

“If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” was the most recurrent theme among advertisers, who spend a lot of money every month with our publications.

A blank, sometimes disbelieving stare was a fairly common reaction among the people in our office, many of whom depend upon our publications for their monthly paycheck.

“You mean, the Advocate will be a magazine, and I’ll still receive it for free?” was a pretty common assessment by readers.

Perhaps the most indicative event occurred the other day at a Lakewood Chamber of Commerce luncheon. After sitting down at a table of people long familiar with me and our publications, three of my fellow neighborhood business people began to compliment me – without prompting, I might add – on our publications’ new look.

Two other business people at the table, however, also had the courage of conviction: They didn’t like our new magazine – it simply wasn’t their neighborhood newspaper anymore.

The remaining person at the table probably made the most profound statement, remaining quiet and preferring instead to concentrate on the meal at hand.

So the scorecard read 3 to 2, with one preoccupied. Not exactly a decisive margin on the basis of the numbers, is it?

Then again, that’s a favorable margin of 60 percent to 40 percent, which qualifies as a landslide in presidential politics.

That’s pretty much the way it is every day in small business. You make a decision, and then you start hearing about it. Directly. Personally. Unequivocally.

As you’ll notice from reading this month’s cover story about neighborhood entrepreneurs, things start happening to you when you start a business. There is plenty of upfront planning before jumping into a business to be sure, but then real life intervenes and all of the best-laid plans go awry.

Our neighborhood entrepreneurs would tell you the same thing, I’m sure. Whether investing more money, hiring additional employees (or letting employees go, for that matter) or making adjustments to product offerings, small business typically involves effectively dealing with change.

If you read our entrepreneurs’ stories carefully, the only consistent, common theme you’ll find is that the opportunity for change presented itself, and for whatever reason, these entrepreneurs decided to grab on for a ride to who knows where.

What’s great about our neighborhood is that so many people here not only dream about starting their own business, but quite a few actually take the next step and give it a try.

I can tell you personally that there’s a great deal of excitement in the small business experience, particularly in the midst of great change. But I suppose there would be a great deal of excitement in being devoured by a shark, too.

And like most small business people, I’m still looking for just the right brand of shark repellent.


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