business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

The recent flurry of articles on MNB about ATMs and the banking industry gave me a strange sense of nostalgia and, frankly, not in a good way.

A good number of years ago, when my hair was longer, darker and pretty unkempt, I’d regularly have to visit a bank branch to cash small checks for spending money. Each visit followed the same pattern and all were unpleasant.

No matter how many times I saw the same teller, I was always required to present identification and verify my account, just to get $15 in spending money. (I swear the bank guard used to unholster his gun when I walked in, but that’s just probably a dramatized recollection.)

Then one day 0 around 1980 as I recall - everything changed. My bank branch got an ATM and suddenly my PIN code was all that mattered. My hair and wardrobe were immaterial and my banking experience improved dramatically.

There are countless young adults who have no recollection of 1980 or banking before ATMs. For them, a bank branch has never really mattered any more than sending a handwritten letter or loading a roll of film. The world moved on and all they know is what exists today.

There’s no point in telling them how important bank branches, film or letters were. They are simply irrelevant to their lives.

As we talk about the challenges facing the food retailing industry going forward we need to remember these changes. We need to remember that there were countless paragons of business or ways of conducting commerce that vanished simply because the times changed.

And that’s why these are topics we all need consider today.

Take a contrary example. Thanks to my age, I also recall when videocassette recorders first became widely available, changing the way we all watched movies. It’s hard to believe how quickly VHS gave way to DVDs and then to Netflix. In the process, businesses like Blockbuster blossomed and collapsed.

But movie theaters - some of them, at least - have marched on by drastically changing the experience they offer. Today I book tickets in advance for my local theater, so I know exactly what seats I can get. The tickets are pricier than ever, but the seats are fabulous. Stadium seating guarantees that no taller person ever blocks me and the projection itself is stunningly clear. (It has to be, because I have a pretty good flat screen HD-TV at home, and my couch is extremely comfortable, with an unobstructed view.)

The business changed and theaters changed. Sure, they are still challenged, especially because they remain dependent on quality, popular content. A season of lousy movies can't be compensated for by a great theater experience. But for most moviegoers they remain relevant and they now achieve profitability by adding better food and a wide variety of beverages.

That’s what the continued battle for relevance demands. Change with the times, deliver the new experience and the future may hold a place for you. Fail to do so and question when your name and business will be remembered in the future only through nostalgia.

That’s a pretty stark choice. But it ultimately is the only one available to you.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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