Article > Editor’s Note

Business Moves Fast (Some Of Them)

By Mark Phillips

Mark Phillips
I subscribe to a newsletter by a business that runs auctions. What they auction isn’t important for the purposes of this discussion, but suffice it to say, the prices the items yield can be quite high.

The other day, the CEO of the auction company sent out an email saying the company would be providing a new service. In addition to sending the regular email with the auction items a few times a week, he would be offering a new service: a pricey newsletter that would give buyers the inside scoop on auction items, many hours in advance of when other, non-paying subscribers would get it.

It seemed like a beautiful thing; The auctions he offers thrive on information, like many other businesses. Getting information in advance would surely be an edge, and many serious buyers would be very willing to pay for it. And the amount being asked for the newsletter was enough to weed out the non-paying subscribers unlikely to come up with that chunk of change.

To my surprise, a mere two hours later, I received another email from the CEO, an update of that morning’s newsletter. He had changed his mind and decided to scrap the idea entirely. If he’d gone through with it, he would have taken information he currently provides for free, slapped a high price on it and it would have netted him a very nice payday. Seems like a great idea to me! The people and businesses who wanted to pay for early information could, the others satisfied with the old newsletter would still get it for free. He’d essentially created a market.

In this newest email, the CEO said that within minutes of sending the first email, he’d received a ton of responses, most of which slammed him for considering such an idea. What struck me most about this whole thing was not that he received such negative responses, but just how quickly he made a decision to blow the idea up and forget he even mentioned it.

I’ve seen a lot of businesses hold onto bad ideas and practices, sometimes because management thought they were good ideas; sometimes because they didn’t want to admit it was a bad idea; sometimes because no one told them it was a bad idea. Whatever reasons this CEO got in his email inbox, he took them seriously, so much so, that he decided to ignore the potential money he could have made going through with the newsletter. Or maybe, he realized he was doing more damage to his business than the money would have been worth.

Whatever the reason, it was refreshing to see a business owner fess up to an apparently bad idea, kill it, apologize for it, and move on.

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