Sometimes I laugh about my luck. How could I have predicted the unplanned circumstances that allowed my US business to survive for almost a decade that resulted from a classic (and utterly embarrassing) business error in trying to expand the enterprise to a new market (North Carolina: Northcarolinaconstructionnews.com) in 2004-5 when the overall picture was crumbling.
Now, we are launching Chicago Construction News (chicagoconstructionnews.com), resurrecting a title that I had originally envisaged during the heady days in the early part of last decade, when we were operating in four U.S. cities, with 20 employees overall, an astoundingly inept business management structure. There are more improbabilities associated with this launch than I dare express out loud (for fear of jinxing the story) but it is going well, and Brooke McDonald’s initiatives are effectively raising the bar — and standards — of our overall organization to allow it to thrive in the future.
As I worked to set up the background structure for the new title, I decided to recheck the provenance of the publication title, remembering that there had in the past been another “Chicago Construction News”. So I Googled the name — and discovered the results of my own research, in 2003. It turns out then that Google had a service (now discontinued), Google Answers, where you could pay librarians and other researchers to search data and discover answers — and pay them for their work. The researchers’ data proved inconclusive, but I put things together and called around, ultimately reaching the an individual associated with the former publication, and confirmed with him to my satisfaction that the title was no longer in use and there were no trademark claims or ownership rights to worry about.
These developments suggest that business decision-making and planning aren’t always as straightforward as the textbooks would describe. You can have all the systems and processes in the world, but they are compounded (or constrained) by both luck and creativity.
Then, should you throw the metrics out and just fly by the seat of your pants in your marketing decisions? I think not, especially if you want to be around for any length of time. Despite plenty of blunders and bungles, I always have kept my eye on the limits and financials and pulled back when necessary and pushed forward when it made sense. And there are norms, reasonable projections and business calculations you need to make to be sure you will be around for the long-term.
Yet I’m also thankful for creativity — and luck. Without both, I doubt we would be here today.