Ski biz: ‘It could be worse’
Summit County Correspondent
KEYSTONE, Colo. ” For the second day in a row, speakers at the Mountain Travel Symposium Friday told their audience that things could be worse.
It may be small comfort, but the European economy may take an even bigger hit, said Dr. Oren Harari, a consultant and well-known speaker known for helping businesses achieve a competitive advantage in a chaotic environment.
“It’s been a tough year in your industry, no doubt about it,” said Harari at the final day of the symposium, in Keystone. “Anyone who tells you we’re coming out of this next year is delusional or wildly optimistic. I foresee a three- to five-year thing, and some people are saying 10 years.”
He emphasized the global nature of the downturn, explaining that British banks bought toxic assets from their American counterparts, then leveraged them to make loans to Eastern Europe, where some countries are now on the verge of bankruptcy.
Businesses must focus on delivering real value and differentiate themselves from the pack just to survive, he said.
Just as the speakers who preceded him on the first day pointed out, consumers have come to expect bargains these days, and travelers are no exception. They’re willing to wait, often until the very last minute, to find the best deal possible, Harari said, referring to a recent Wall Street Journal article on the same subject.
Harari said businesses that want to make headway right now need to avoid the trap of what he calls the “copy-cat” economy.
“You have to lead the the agenda for your industry … defy conventional wisdom, innovate, or you’re in commodity hell,” he said.
He singled out a a private preschool in Guatemala as an example of innovation. The school uses streaming interactive online math lessons and interactive Web cams that let parents participate in classroom activities. The school only hires teachers that have some sort of degree in a pertinent field and pays them well. The operation is thriving in Guatemala and expanding in Central America, he said.
Harari also named Whole Foods and Apple as similarly successful businesses, favorably comparing the latter’s per-square-foot revenue from its New York flagship store to other well-known retailers nearby. He attributed that success to the company’s culture of innovation, as well as its sense of design.
Considering the examples he used, it made sense when Harari ended his presentation by exhorting executives to aim for building a legacy that lasts beyond the immediate fulfillment of profits and growth. He suggested there could be some sort of spiritual value to striving for business success, and said that, even if it sound risky, in the end it’s a lot more fun.