200 Years of American Business

200 Years of American Business

200 Years of American Business

200 Years of American Business

Excerpt

John Maynard Keynes said that "events start with the actions of businessmen." Although much of his time was spent in the cloistered environment of England's Cambridge, this great theorist had a penetrating understanding of the real operations of life. Clearly he saw that unpredictable man may, by unusual actions, continually upset all theories. Granting this is true, as I think most business executives would agree, practical aids to decision making have to be derived from analyzing the actions of men in somewhat similar past situations.

But situations and their results are seldom simple. Aside from some flash of brilliant intuition, from which business decisions have often benefited, the more pedestrian business or scholarly approach must be to try to break down the baffling overall picture of reality into understandable parts. Application of this process in the ubiquitous world of business may start with an initial division of problems into those arising from managing the activities of buying, processing, and selling. But each of these in itself is an extensive and varied category, and each presents different challenges to the inquiring entrepreneur that differ in both type and complexity. The businessman has learned by the hard experience of many centuries that buying is a relatively understandable matter of judging quality, price, and probable supply. Processing, however, depends on the type of business. It may require the mastering of new scientific theory, better technology, or simply more diligent supervision of well-known routines; all three involve both knowledge and its application, but the variable elements can usually be understood. Selling or marketing, on the other hand, is a step into the truly unpredictable. Guides of many types, such as market research, may help, but the great unknowns of how to reach and influence customers can defeat the best laid plans. Taste may change, markets may suddenly become glutted, a sales campaign may not reach the right people, the selling staff may make the wrong appeal, or the physical process of marketing . . .

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