I love fall. The air becomes clearer and the humidity drops. Here in New England the trees take on lovely hues of red, yellow orange and, sometimes, purple. My birthday is in September which always leads me to contemplation.
The reason autumn begins is science: earth’s orbit changes and fall marks the beginning of 6 months of reduced sunlight. The result is that the land goes into hibernation awaiting the return of enough sun to start the growing process again. Sadly, some plants die from a lack of light.
This death/renewal process also applies to companies. Thankfully most businesses don’t follow an accelerated schedule from birth to hibernation in less than a year. Of course there are the ones that fail to thrive and end quickly and, on the other end of the spectrum, we have the amazing businesses that have endured for over a century.
It’s important to note that the ones that have thrived the longest have done so by making adjustments as the business climate has changed. Just like plants that rearrange themselves to take more advantage of sunlight, these businesses have embraced transformation. The kind of change needed to keep a company alive for 100 years or more is neither easy nor inexpensive. Whole generations of leaders may only be able to maintain status quo until a new crop comes in with fresh ideas. Rapid changes in technology also fuels quantum leaps for some businesses.
But what of the companies that die? I am always saddened when this happens and I find myself thinking about the loss of a preferred product or service and the human toll when a business closes. Recently I have come to realize that the “when one door closes a window opens” adage is doubly true for failed businesses. Enterprising employees take what they have learned to either get a new (and possibly better) job or they start their own business using the skills they have acquired. Sometimes the failed company’s intellectual property is purchased and incorporated into another business that will benefit greatly from it.
Not every company that fails will later burst forth in a spring-like resurrection. But enough of the seeds they have planted have the potential to bloom and may bring us a new crop of color next year.