Cyclical Business

When I set up shop as a graphic artist, I never thought about the cyclical nature of business. It didn’t take long, however, to learn there is a natural ebb and flow to every type of business. I became accustomed to a cycle of slow summers and insanely busy winters. Starting Connect Business Magazine was, in part, a strategy to modify that cycle and help my design company tack through the doldrums of summer.

Cruising over glass-smooth water is easy on the stomach, but even rolling seas provide comfort when the pattern becomes familiar and predictable. The problem for me, and I assume many of you, is the current lack of predictability. Over the past couple of years, the patterns we steer by have come to look more like Sudoku puzzles. Almost everyone I talk to seems to believe things are improving, but I’ve grown impatient with the pace of recovery. I’ve scratched my head bald trying to think of fresh ideas. I fret that future success may require chasing micro-opportunities with butterfly nets. I find myself turning a jealous eye to businesses who are fortunate enough to receive a financial boost from external factors that operate beyond the realm of normal economics.

At times, I wonder if I erred in not entering a profession that is more important, more indispensable. That isn’t to say that I and my fellow designers haven’t filled a need. We’ve certainly seen our share of rush work and labored around the clock more times than I care to remember. Yet, rush projects in my business are more the product of procrastination than true emergencies. It’s not the same as a plumber receiving a frantic call from someone with a burst pipe. When people have water rising up their basement steps, they’re not inclined to ask for estimates or do comparative shopping. They simply want someone to fix the leak before animals start arriving two-by-two.

A 24-hour emergency hot line is a great way for plumbers, electricians or glass installers to attract additional work, but as far as I know, there has never been a documented case of anyone calling an artist in the wee hours of the morning to procure a logo design at any cost.

Community celebrations present another perennial financial opportunity that will never fatten my wallet. Summertime revelers are easily enticed to small towns by beer gardens, street dances and parades. Local purveyors of potent potables may rake in more cash in three days than they see in three months. Who wouldn’t want a piece of that action? Yet, I can’t imagine anyone in a party mood getting fired up over a poster advertising fun, fellowship and photo retouching. I’d have more success with a food stand selling bubonic plague on a stick.

I can’t even count on the occasional act of God to bolster my bottom line. For window and siding companies, roofers and body shops, the golf ball-sized hail storm of this past June was manna from heaven. In Nicollet, where I own two buildings, it was a regular feeding frenzy. Insurance money was flowing through town like a river, but not to my business. We didn’t get to bid on a single claim for wind-damaged web sites or hail-scarred corporate identities.

Clearly, what works for one business isn’t the solution for others. Maybe I just need to relax and wait for the return of business as usual. Maybe I need to start advertising “one-hour brochure design” and install a coin-operated cappuccino machine and soft-serve ice cream dispenser in my front lobby.

Have a profitable day,

Jeff Irish

Jeff Irish

Founder and former publisher of Connect Business Magazine.