Because It's Always Been Done That Way

September 14, 2018


Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, once said “The only thing constant is change.” He was a true visionary.

Over my career of nearly 40 years, I’ve witnessed so many changes. In 1980, the Dow was sitting at less than 1,000. I remember hearing an investment advisor talk that one day it could go as high as 1,500 and nobody took him seriously. At of the date of this blog post, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) sits over 25,500. In fact, the old rule of thumb for a stock market correction was 18 months until the market rose over its level just before the correction. We are now rewriting the rule of thumb book; the old rules just don’t apply anymore.

You could always be sure of making money by investing in real estate. Even that landscape has changed. Most of us live in areas where strip centers and shopping malls have vacancy after vacancy. Probably the single greatest contributing factor to this trend is shopping by point-and-click. Local retailers paying for brick and mortar locations are competing with companies who sell their products online and virtually around the world. Look for warehouses and distribution centers to be the next sound investment in real estate.

Yes, things change. And the rate of change is mind-boggling. Because of advances in technology, what used to take 10 years to change now takes 10 months. Consider this: the phonograph was introduced in 1877, the first magnetizable tape was introduced around 1930 and the earliest version of the reel-to-reel tape came into being around 1932. Cassettes were invented in the late 1950s and were introduced commercially in 1962, 8-tracks in 1964 (ask your father if you don’t know what an 8-track is). Betamax© and VHS platforms emerged in the mid-70s, compact discs in 1982, and the Sony Walkman© in 1989. You saw your first DVD in 1997 and Blu-ray in 2006. Record and CD collections were moved out of the house via eBay when we began downloading music to our computer, and now we store all our media in the “cloud”, wherever that is. And we take it with us everywhere we go.

So what’s my point? It’s simple. Keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll be obsolete in no time. You may be the best manufacturer of 33-1/3 LPs but when the market moves away from LPs to the next “latest and greatest” you’ll be left in the dust. The poster child for one of the most adaptive companies is Apple, who began in 1985 with the Mac and has re-invented itself time and again. How many times has it been a pioneer with the introduction of so many products since its inception?

In small business, change is a fact of life. In successful businesses, change is a way of life. Never have we faced more challenges in our working life, and we must meet these challenges without the tried and true methods of the old rule books.

Here’s my advice to the small business owner.

  • Look to the future with your roots in knowledge and experience. There will come a day when change will impact your niche, and when that day comes you need to be in front of the curve or at least right on it. I can think of no better example than the Movie Tavern, condensing the dinner-and-a-movie into a one-stop shop.
  • Set the path to your personal financial goals with today’s facts and circumstances, but do so in “pencil”, that octagonal shaped yellow thing with graphite running down the middle. Rethink your direction every day, and when necessary, change your path to adapt to your new set of facts and circumstances. Monitor your progress, continue to do what’s effective, tweak what needs to be adjusted, and abandon what simply doesn’t work.
  • Lose the battle, but don’t lose the lesson. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Sure, we all strive for perfection, but being human makes perfection impossible. Mistakes are made by everybody every day. Just because we erred doesn’t make us a failure, it just means we tried something that didn’t work, one more alternative crossed off the list of possibilities. And don’t lose sight that others are human and make mistakes also; being able to forgive their mistakes allows them to forgive you for yours.
  • Be aggressive. People who know me understand how I feel about fate. Yes, there are things beyond our control and sometimes they go our way, other times they do not. I cringe when I hear people say how lucky somebody was to be in the right place at the right time. The way I see it, everybody walking down the street on any given day will encounter hundreds of opportunities. They’re there for everybody for the taking. But some people prepare themselves to recognize the opportunity when it presents itself, they put themselves in a position to take advantage of the opportunity before them, and they have the guts to act on the opportunity. We call those people successful.
  • You never know where your next great idea is going to come from. Tap into people you know and trust; they have knowledge and experience you do not have, and they see things from a different perspective. One person comes up with an idea, another person thinks about it and modifies the idea, and a third idea surfaces that is worthy of pursuing. Your friends, associates and trusted advisors are a great source of knowledge and wisdom. Invite them to brainstorming sessions, and I will guarantee everybody will come away with something they didn’t have before.
  • Another valuable resource for ideas are your co-workers and employees. Tapping into their ideas not only gives you food for thought, it gives them a feeling of appreciation that you thought enough of them to ask for their input. Don’t forget to give credit where credit is due.

Herbein + Company has been helping the small business owner achieve their financial goals for almost 50 years. That’s not something we take lightly. For me, helping others achieve their goals provides me with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that goes well beyond the preparation of a tax return. And I’ve been fortunate in having been able to help many people over the years.

Article written by Ken Frebowitz. For additional information contact us at