10 Businesses Facing Extinction and 9 Options for Coping

Friday, October 5, 2007 at 8:00pm by Site Administrator

Entrepreneur magazine had an eye-opening article last month about 10 businesses facing extinction. The writer, Geoff Williams, suggested that the following ten businesses are facing extinction within 10 years:

  1. Record stores.
  2. Camera film manufacturing.
  3. Crop dusters.
  4. Gay bars.
  5. Newspapers.
  6. Pay phones.
  7. Used bookstores.
  8. Piggy banks.
  9. Telemarketing.
  10. Coin-operated arcades.


Premise

If I’m reading between the lines correctly, Williams is not saying these businesses will all go, but the odds are not good for any of them.

Now, I happen to know business owners that fall into some of these categories, or some in peripherally-related niches and they have been hugely affected. With some, because they didn’t roll with the proverbial punches, they are in situations where they’re miserable. One guy won’t talk to his wife nor one of his best friends of 20+ years. Another guy’s used bookstore was kaput a few years back. My mother’s business makes very little on newspapers and calling cards, but they bring in customers for other items. She’s on the verge of selling her business.

The Game Plan

Are you in this extinction boat? What do you do about this impending doom? What are your plans? Here are the options, as I see them.

1. Cry about it.
But expect defeat. You have to take a pragmatic approach and do it yesterday. Emotional attachment is no justification for not doing anything. Still, some people prefer to cope in this way. Maybe someone will take pity on you and give you business for a while.

2. Fight the good fight.
You might succeed, but if your business’ odds of survival are low, there is no “good fight”. You’ll be KOd if you don’t get proactive now.

3. Pour money in.
This is similar to the last option. You’ve heard the saying “throwing good money in after bad”? If your niche is going towards extinction, that’s exactly what’ll happen if you borrow money to pour in. Put that money into either adapting or investing in competitve technology – both discussed below.

4. Sell.
Instead of struggling you could sell your business – just be aware of the tax issues. However, with articles like the one in Entrepreneur magazine pointing that you’re in a dying niche, it may not be so easy. Whatever you get for it might not be enough to retire on.

5. Retire.
You could retire from your business – if you have saved enough, sold for a nice price and/or have a sufficient pension. Few small business owners do. Factor in your age and health. If you expect to live a long time, will your money hold out?

6. Change careers.
If you can’t/won’t favor any of the above options and there’s no easy way to adapt (such as for a variety store owner), then there’s little choice but to change your career. Maybe there’s something you’ve enjoyed doing for a long time and didn’t realize until now how much you know about it. For more information, also see Career Journal and Career [email protected].

7. Invest in your competitor.
That is, invest in the reason/ technology that will be putting you out of business. It’s probably a far easier transition than changing careers.

8. Adapt.
There’s somre future hope of adaptation for, for example, newspapers. There’s ongoing research by Philips, Sony and others to produce paper thin, flexible electronic displays of various sizes. Mos of these displays have data ports so news and data can be downloaded and displayed.

After these are tested in smaller markets, they’ll likely become commonplace. The problem is, can a paid model for news survive? Probably not for news but for niche information, yes. In the meantime, newspapers can go online and try for ad revenue.

9. Go online.
Start moving your business online before you start to go under, so that you still have some branding power. Set up an ecommerce website (if your market research proves this worthwhile), print up small flyers and display them in your store. Tell everyone about the site. Don’t be shy; be shameless about promoting your new venture. Your livelihood depends on it.

Obviously, this won’t work for cropdusters but it will for, say, record store owners. There is still a market for vinyl, and it’s much easier to target it online than from some nondescript storefront in a small town. Ditto for used books. There are still people who prefer print over digital content. (I’m one such dinosaur, despite my technical background.)

On the other hand, you also have to deal with the new business model of free music from the likes of popular acts such as Radiohead, Prince and Nine Inch Nails.

Conclusion

These are not your only options, but they’re the key ones. Likewise, there are more than those ten businesses facing extinction. If you feel that yours is in this category and you don’t know what to do, check out our  100 Daily Must-Reads for Entrepreneurs resource list. The sites and blogs listed there might just spark some ideas. If you want an easy way to monitor new articles from that set of websites check out the Monster Mashup feed. Tell me, did I miss anything? Do you have some other options that I missed?


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