Mar 19, 2007

Road Maps

I love maps. My wife loves maps. In fact, I think there's a cartographer hiding in a college professor's body there somewhere with her. I like knowing exactly where I'm going, how long it will take to get there and just what kind of things I'm going to encounter along the way.

My wife's family owns a lovely little independent telephone company. Yes, they still exist. No, AT&T, MCI, Verizon (GTE) and all the other have not swallowed them all. And they have relied on regulated phone service business for years. And now they an unregulated side, and have to change. It is an interesting case study in business adaptability, competition and change.

I, being my wife's proxy, attend the Annual Meeting of shareholders. It's a privately-held company and there are maybe, like, I don't know -- maybe 25 shareholders that all grew out of the same grand and great-grand parents. It's a wonder the thing is still in tact given all the family involvement. Yet it is...

After looking at their financial statements in the meeting, observing the obvious decline in regulated (actual phone service) business, and noting tough struggles on the P&L side for such new unregulated business ventures as Digital TV, Internet and Broadband, I asked a relatively broad question.

"Do you guys have a road map?"

"You know -- have you run the numbers out three or five years on people pitching their land lines for cell phones in their homes, for VoIP services like Vonage (which I recommend - email me, I'll refer you and we'll BOTH save money!) and really taken a look at where you have the most profit margin on the unregulated side of the business so you know where to focus, from a numbers perspective, of course...?"

Not that I'm Joe-CFO or anything, but I can read statements, understand marketing and the need for good planning and business strategy.

A road map. Get one. And know where you're driving to.

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