Opportunities Abound When Ecosystems Collapse…
This post was inspired by a 2011 post by Pam Slim (Avatars, Ecosystems, and Watering Holes), where she discusses creating you own healthy business ecosystem.
But what happens when an ecosystem collapses? Most people panic, but a few recognize the opportunities — often excellent for starting a consulting practice.
Scientists tell us every major extinction event was followed by an explosion of new life. A prime example is the asteroid that destroyed the dinosaurs, which gave rise to the mammals and ultimately the naked apes known as homo sapiens.
When an ecosystem collapses, the balance of nature is upset. Those at the top of the food chain (the huge dinosaurs) are displaced, and new opportunities explode (for the tiny mammals.) But eventually a new equilibrium is reached, and evolution resumes its slow grind.
So it is with business. Sudden changes give rise to new opportunities, at least to those willing to pursue them. The inertia of the dinosaurs often prevents them from doing the same. In fact, the dinosaurs usually fight the changes and thus miss the opportunities.
A minor engineering ecosystem collapse helped launch our consulting firm.
- Thanks to the personal computer explosion, by the early 1980s electronic interference problems to radios and televisions were increasing exponentially.
- As a result, the Federal Communication Commission issued new regulations.
- But there were few engineers that understood the problems, and how to fix them.
- Most of those engineers were well entrenched in the defense industry, and not interested in tackling commercial electronics.
- Thus, the engineering ecosystem for addressing these problems collapsed.
Recognizing the opportunity, we jumped in with both feet. But the economy was teetering too, and the first day in business the stock market crashed (October 1987.) A double whammy. But thanks to multiple opportunities with very limited competition, we did very well.
A second collapse occurred in the mid-1990s. Driven by the same interference problems, the European Union passed strict laws on interference on a wide range of electronic devices. If you could not demonstrate compliance, you could not export to the EU.
- Once again, many big players (the dinosaurs) missed the changes (the asteroid.)
- Once again, the engineering ecosystem suffered a minor collapse.
- Once again, the little guys (the tiny mammals) like us did very well.
This is when we launched our training business, which took off like a rocket. This time, people were hungry for both help and knowledge. We often joked that while the consulting paid the bills, the training funded the retirement.
Would we have the same quick success today? Probably not, unless the ecosystem again collapsed. The growth would be much slower under today’s more stable conditions.
So, don’t fear the changes. Rather, seek them out. Remember, when the ecosystem collapsed, the mammals proliferated and the dinosaurs died out.
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