Ghosts of Business Past, Present and Future

Poor Ebenezer Scrooge.  The last thing he wanted the night before Christmas, was to be reminded of his mistakes, and poor judgement.  In actuality, the Ghosts who visited him that night were a godsend – changing his life for the better, forever.  If only there were business Ghosts – what would they say to you?

Ghost of Business Past

The Ghosts that visited Scrooge were specific to his circumstance.  Since every business is distinctive (by virtue of industry, size, geography and etc.) the conversation you have with your Ghosts may be unlike their discussion with anyone else.  Rather than a somewhat moralistic argument that encompassed Scrooge, the Ghost of Business Past would likely concentrate on elements of your business that could have made a significant contribution to your bottom line and future business value.  Elements you could have controlled but didn’t.  How about those bad debts you experienced?  Rather than addressing them as receivables when they were due, you let them languish, rationalizing that you were too busy with “today’s work” than following up on “yesterday’s”.  Over time they evolved from receivables to bad debt.  What about that product line you knew needed updating, but you were compelled to disregard because of pressures to get the product out the door today.  Before you knew it, your competitor had phased you out.  If only you had taken the time.  It shouldn’t take a deceased partner like Jacob Marley to convince us that we made impactive mistakes in the past.  The Ghost of Business Past realizes you can’t change the past, but the perspective of past foibles can help you change the future.

Ghost of Business Present

This Ghost proclaimed to Scrooge that “The sins of man are huge, a never ending symphony of villainy and infamy”.  I can think of no greater “sin” than to conduct business without really “seeing” what is going on.  Have you stopped long enough to consider how productive your employees are?  Are you simply putting up with behavior that is unacceptable because an employee has been with the company for awhile, because you personally hired them and now feel that making a change would be an admission you made a mistake, or worse yet, because the employee is a relative of yours?  Whether an employee is taking money out of the till or being paid without producing, he/she is constructively embezzling the company through their actions.  Have you thought about how your clients perceive your business?  What do they see?  Are your marketing pieces fresh, with new creativity and pizazz?  And your website - is it useful, informative and interesting?  What do clients “see” when they come to your place of business – does it convince them that they should do business with you or run to your competitor?  The Ghost of Business Present gives you the opportunity to see what’s happening today – right before your eyes, and before your client’s eyes.

Ghost of Business Future

For Scrooge, this Ghost was the one he feared the most.  He saw his clients singing and rejoicing at his demise saying “Thank you very much, that’s the nicest thing that anyone’s ever done for me”!  As business owners, the song at our demise would be sung by our competitors – who are eager to take our clients at the mere hint of a mistake or miscalculation on our part.  Have you taken time to forecast the coming year?  Will you need additional capital?  Do you have a line of credit established that is sufficient?  Do you have a broad enough supplier base?  Multiple suppliers allow you to force price competition, and give you a fallback position in case your primary supplier is slow.  Will you have enough room to meet the future production or distribution requirements that growth will require?

Remember, annual bottom line performance translates into business value, whether it is perceived by you the owner putting dollars in your pocket, or by someone making you an offer to buy your business.  How you operate your business today, every day, will make a distinct difference in the ongoing profitability and prospective value of your business.  The point being that making changes, both subtle and dramatic, will impact your business in immediate and long-term ways.  The difference in Scrooge’s life wasn’t necessarily the visits by the three Ghosts.  The difference was that he made up his mind to change and did it!  Making that change Christmas morning had an immense impact on Scrooge’s life.  Implementing the necessary changes in your business will have a substantial impact on your business life.



-Bradley G. Marlor MBA, M&AMI, CBI is a Managing Partner at Utah Business Consultants and a Certified Business Intermediary. Utah Business Consultants is a full-service Business Brokerage and Valuation firm

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