The Biz of Pacelinebiz

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The Story Of Mordecai And Ebenezer

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Mordecai and the horseless carriage

Mordecai and the horseless carriage

This is the story* of the buggy whip industry.  There was a time when it was really lousy to be a buggy whip company.  The first buggy whip company, BW Co., had a difficult time finding enough customers to use their product and they spent a lot of money and time developing a good buggy whip that the consumer would want.   Eventually BW Co. figured out how to make a good buggy whip and the number of buggies in the world was increasing every year. This offset the few competitors that were coming into the buggy whip market and thus BW Co. business was good.

Over the years the market became increasingly crowded with a lot of competitors and the advantage BW Co. had in the buggy whip making process was eliminated and it became a rather easy product to make. Actually, over the many years of buggy whip making it had become a commodity- if you saw one buggy whip you saw them all.  This fact saddened BW Co. and business was not so good.

One day BW Co.’s owner, Mordecai Wentworth, saw a very curious thing and it made him sad.  Mordecai was a very smart man and the “horseless carriage” was the cause of his sadness.  Since Mordecai was so bright he knew he had few options.  He thought to himself; “my business is in danger of becoming obsolete.  No matter how good I make my buggy whips, it won’t matter if these horseless carriages eliminate the horse and buggy as a popular mode of transportation.  I need to act upon this information and quickly.”  He went home that night and had a very restless night of sleep.  Business was bad again.

Ebenezer McNulty the owner of EM co. and the largest rival of BW Co. was not a very bright man and was largely successful due to an inheritance.  He also saw the horseless carriage but doubted it would be popular any time soon and was too busy improving his buggy whip making process to devote much time to this oddity.  Ebenezer thought to himself; “I am well positioned in the buggy whip business and a market leader, I will improve my buggy whip and beat the competition.  Business is good.”  Ebenezer went to bed that night and slept well, dreaming of his buggy whip empire.

As the years rolled on, Mordecai invested no money in his buggy whip business and took all his buggy whip profits and spent them on a new process he called tire making.  Mordecai said; “Someday there might be as many as 1,000 of these horseless carriages made every year and they will need 4 tires each.  4,000 tires is a lot of tires and I want to make all of them if I can”.  Mordecai then thought to himself; “business is not good but it will be getting better someday soon.”  Across town Ebenezer was delighted at the margins he was making on his buggy whips and was happy to see that he was gaining share as smaller buggy whip makers left the business.  Someday soon I will own the entire market once I put BW Co. out of business. 

A few more years passed and Ebenezer achieved his goal. As he said it, “I put Mordecai and those hill-jacks at BW Co. out of business.  I am the king of the world!”  Business was fantastic and then 4 months later he went out of business.  Meanwhile BW Co had changed their named to BW Tire Co and was a major player in the tire business for years to come.  Eventually they made a little more than 1,000 of those horseless carriages a year.  In fact, multinational companies now make about 15 million more of them every year in North America.  That is 60 million tires in case you are counting.

The moral of the story is to be aware of dangers to your business.  Don’t be one of the complacent buggy whip companies that went out of business.  If you see a threat to your business take the profits you are making and look for a place to invest them for the future like Mordecai. 

Many factors play into the threats you may face but technology has the ability to cause quick disruptions in the way we do business. Just look at the list below of businesses that are struggling due to changes brought on by the internet and digital technology revolution:

  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Television broadcast networks
  • Traditional advertising
  • The popular music Industry
  • Brick and mortar retail businesses

What changes will occur if the Unites States can safely extract all that oil and gas via horizontal fracturing?  If you can stay ahead of the curve you will stay afloat.  I urge you to think like Mordecai and not like Ebenezer. 

Have a great week.

*Disclaimer – Yes, this is a story to prove a point and any similarities to persons, companies or an event is purely coincidental.  No animals were hurt during the writing of this cautionary tale, although I did have a chicken sandwich for lunch.


Written by pacelinebiz

February 10, 2014 at 8:01 am

One Response

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  1. I really enjoyed this. Especially since I worked for a company making chemicals used in tire production and now creating a finished product the tire curing bladder.

    Kathy Murauskas

    February 24, 2014 at 11:38 am

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