Welcome To Realityville

26 06 2012

I once had a student in the cash checking business. In fact, I just ran into him at Target. He now has more than one Amarillo business, but he remains specialized in providing services to people on the Boulevard who are not likely to have a bank account. I will never forget the prescience of the then-young man one night in class as he astutely noted for all,”Behind every threat lurks a golden opportunity.”

Not bad for a 22-year-old entrepreneur. There are never any lemons in the mind of a risk-taking capitalist, only lemonade. And he was determined to build his lemonade stand in a field that is often criticized for abusing its customers more than helping. The fact that he has grown his business in the 15+ years since I taught him is apparent testimony that he is doing something right. The threat of public disdain knocked, and he seized the opportunity to send it packing.

I am sure the folks who work at one of three Springfield Visitors Centers in the Show Me State. Technology has allowed tourists to use their smartphones and access internet content on the fly. As a result, the Springfield Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is closing one of its brick-and-mortar centers.

Ouch. This sounds just like the fearmongering that happened in the 90s as internet marketing took old. Folks worried that jobs woujld be lost. But while there has certainly been job displacement in the digital era, there have been more new jobs be created than those lost. It’s just that it hurts when it’s your job that is lost.

But in the words of my student, there’s a golden opportunity coming right around the corner. Instead of seeing this as a setback, the bureau should see it as a chance to do things differently…cheaper, more efficiently, and, if they’re savvy, profitably.

Gone will be the overhead of building maintenance and labor. In their place could be mobile apps that offer everything the old building provided, but also with advertising. With roughly 50-percent of USAmericans now toting smartphones, it makes sense to shift gears and put the information where people are…not where you want them to be. And, given the proliferation of free apps like AroundMe and Urban Spoon, tourists are only a couple of taps away from knowing everything they need (and with a map for how to find it).

At the risk of summoning an over-used simile, perhaps the bureau should focus on providing round solutions for the round pegs of the 21C rolling through town.

While I am not advocating that drivers do all of this data searching while driving, it does not preclude passengers from doing the drill-down. Offering dynamic content for local member businesses is far more significant than dispensing flyers and tourism cards from an office counter.

I was talking with friends earlier today about similar types of apps that could be used for just about any interest area; it need not be limited to basic tourism. What if an app were made that made it easy for baseball fans to find the local minor league team and its schedule, stadium and team roster? What about an app that cataloged brewpubs for those who like to taste the brewers art? And what an app that stores all the cool places featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives?

Wait. That’s already been done. Download the Flavortown app, and suddenly finding the places that Guy Fieri visited is a snap.

When I met my former student a few weeks ago, he was abuzz with more business ideas. I suppose that’s in the DNA of entrepreneurs, but he has spent his entire career looking behind the threats that could spell trouble, but from his upbeat perspective, somehow get twisted around into money-making opportunities.

Oh that we could all see the world through such a lens. Because, while reality may bite, we can bite back and walk away the winner.

Dr “Check That Cash” Gerlich


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