The Importance of Staying Nimble

by Denny Strigl

Bureaucracy can kill a business.  Case in point:  Look what has happened to the U.S. Postal Service.  They are so big, cost laden and bureaucratic that they can’t get out of their own way.  When competition came in the form of email, they couldn’t cut costs quickly enough to keep up with their diminishing revenue stream.    Further, they didn’t change their monopolistic thinking when business started to disappear.  Instead of thinking of creative ways to adapt to their changing world, their answer was to cut back staff and increase prices. They couldn’t figure out what to do – had no vision and didn’t know how to innovate. Service deteriorated even further.  I don’t know about you, but one of my least favorite things to do is to visit my local post office.  Lines are long and slow moving.  It is understaffed and the employees appear hassled and consequently often treat customers rudely.

Here’s the good news.  The post office’s inefficiency has created opportunities for entrepreneurs.  Entrepreneurs and the small businesses many of them create are the backbone of job creation.

Here is an example:

Popcorn Packers Postal and Shipping Center in Pennington, New Jersey was founded in 1995 to provide its local customers with a convenient way to ship packages.  The business is individually owned and operated.  Cecelia, the business owner, can be found on any give day in the store greeting customers and working hard to ensure they have a positive experience.  Tom, the manager, is exactly the opposite of what I have generally found in the local post office . He is courteous, efficient and a no nonsense kind of guy.  If you need assistance packaging something, he is there to do it for you.  He is also quick to tell you shipping options, delivery schedules and associated pricing alternatives.

Popcorn Packers saw opportunity where the local post office was failing and filled the void.  They offer a complete package of postal and shipping services.  Not only do they offer the usual services provided by the U.S. Post Office including certified, registered and Express mail, but they also offer FedEx, UPS and DHL shipping.  And when your package is on it’s way they send you emails informing you of the status including when your package was successfully delivered.  In addition, unlike the post office, they provide many other services like copying, faxing, custom printing and even computer repair.  They also offer a wide variety of office supplies.  Customers are willing to pay a little bit more to get much more in service, courtesy and efficiency.

When I visited Popcorn Packers a couple days ago, Tom shared some very good news. They are opening a second location in Lambertville, NJ and possibly a third location soon.

Bottom line:  Big organizations, whether public or private, can lose their way if they are unable to respond to changing market conditions, unable to innovate and unable to meet the needs of their customers.  As discussed in my book, Managers Can You Hear Me Now?,  businesses large and small need to stay nimble and  do everything they possibly can to avoid bureaucracy lest they, too, end up like the U.S. Post Office.

Leave a Reply