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  • Writer's pictureBill Petrie

Nostalgia is Killing Your Business

Why continually hoping for a return to the past is a path to business disaster

As a species, humans love to look back and reminisce about the “good old days” – it’s just in our nature. It’s an accessible retreat and sense of safety when we envelop ourselves in the comforting blanket of simpler times and how things used to be. However, spending too much time in the days gone by is killing your business due to one simple truth: the past is an excellent teacher but rarely provides a roadmap to future success.

Social media has exacerbated our natural inclination to revisit the past. Take a peek at the numerous Facebook groups dedicated to music from the 80s, movies from the golden area of film, and even fast-food restaurants from yesteryear. When you scrutinize the comments on various posts, person after person pines about the things, people, events, or even lifestyles of the past. Taking a macro view, the common theme for all of these groups is that life was better “back then.”

Many business people have adopted the same perspective – that life was better 10, 20, or 30 years ago. But, frankly, that perspective is nothing more than an excuse as to why a business isn’t growing. While life was certainly different, that does not automatically equate to better. Take these questions about the past in the promotional products industry, for example:

  • Was it better when retail brands avoided the branded merchandise industry like the plague?

  • Was it better when product minimums were 144?

  • Was it better when the only decoration methods for apparel was screen printing or embroidery?

  • Was it better when you had to drive 50 miles a day and only saw two customers?

  • Was it better when you had to wait a month for a check to arrive in the mail to get paid?

If you’re keeping score at home, the answer to each question is a resounding no. That’s not to say everything was more difficult “back in the day,” as every era in the history of time has its own challenges. My point is that regardless of when you live, there are hurdles to overcome, and selling in 2023 is no exception:

  • We are always available, but getting someone to simply answer the phone is more challenging than ever.

  • Information is accessible to anyone at any time, which means that our clients have access to the same information regarding pricing as we do

  • With so much media and marketing noise, it feels impossible to get the attention of a target audience.

As in the past, these roadblocks can be overcome if a bit of creativity, effort, and hard work is applied while looking forward instead of lamenting how good it used to be. No matter how hard we may try, the velocity of change continues to increase, and time will always move forward. The key is to focus on the opportunities that are present living and working in 2023 instead of wishing for the way things used to be.

To succeed in today’s rapidly evolving business environment, it’s vital to keep moving forward and resist the pull of some distant wish of how things used to be. Remember, it’s always fun to briefly visit the past and reminisce about how things were – just don’t plan on staying so long that you’ll need to check your mental luggage.

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