Doing Business in America: What Happened to Keeping It Simple?
There was a time in America when doing business was a simple endeavor. An entrepreneur would settle on a particular product or service, put up a placard, and get to work. Things certainly have changed since those quaint days of old. Modern business is exponentially more complex. Succeeding is harder than ever, too. So what happened?
It is hard to point to one thing responsible for complicating the American business landscape. Over the decades, it has been a lot of little things that just added up. The one thing we can say for sure is that we complicate business voluntarily. It doesn’t have to be that way. Companies can keep it simple and still make a tidy profit.
Complicated Business Models
One of the most visible things we have done over the last 50 years or so is complicate our business models. Far too many companies are trying to be all things to all people. In the corporate arena, the emphasis right now is on vertical integration. But with vertical integration comes more complex business models.
Tennessee-based Seraphim Plastics is a good example of a company that has kept its business model simple. They do one thing and they do it well: recycle industrial scrap plastic waste. They are not trying to be a universal recycler. They are content to focus on a single market in seven states. They are doing very well at it, too.
Complicated Business Processes
In addition to complicating our business models, we have also complicated our business processes. It used to be that businesses were nimble enough to make decisions one day and implement them the next. Now decisions need to go through endless layers of business bureaucracy before anything can get done.
Once again, Seraphim Plastics keeps it simple. Their process is as simple as it can get for recycling. They collect clean and separated industrial plastic waste, truck it to their facility, shred it, and package it for resale. There is nothing complicated about it. Keeping it simple eliminates problems and maximizes revenue.
Complicated Business Regulations
It is impossible to have a discussion of this type and not mention government regulation. Even if companies keep their business models and processes simple, government regulators gum up the works with all sorts of rules. It’s enough to drive business owners batty.
If you have owned a business for any length of time, you might honestly question whether the government knows the definition of ‘simple’. Is the word even in the government’s vocabulary? One look at the Federal Register suggested it is not.
A Different Philosophy Today
If you had to consolidate all the complexities of modern business and find a root cause for all of them, you might be left contemplating the modern business philosophy. It is a quite different philosophy compared to how businesses operated 50 years ago.
These days, we put a high premium on the teamwork concept. American companies are less likely to be managed from the top down. We also focus a lot on extemporaneous issues that have more to do with social justice than keeping a business solvent.
Our new philosophy tends to result in business operations that are anything but simple. For most companies, this is okay. They embrace the complexity and all that comes with it. But there are those companies that still keep things simple.
What happened to the keep it simple philosophy? It has been swallowed up by progress. To those of us who believe keeping it simple is the right way to go, it’s a shame that so few companies actually do it.