A little over a year ago I along with several other senior executives were unceremoniously downsized, the result of a new CEO’s reorganization. About that same time, I opened Summit Media Design, LLC. Over the year I’ve had fantastic business come my way. I charge very reasonable rates, and the quality of my work, the services I offer, and the personalized customer care I take great pride in are all excellent… so I’ve been told. I love the fact that I’m able to “create” something new and meaningful for my clients nearly everyday. And on those days I don’t get to create something new, I take the time to appreciate the things I see that others have created.
So you ask, “Mike… what keeps you up at night?” OK, you asked for it… What gives me pause and concern is that the world we live in is ALL about commoditization. Every product, every service, every milli-ounce of profit that can be squeezed out of the cost derivative is where the winner (some will say loser) sits. The Bob Dylan lyric, “For the loser now will be later to win” is mostly accomplished when ROI is turned a blind eye.
Need a logo designed? Go to Fiverr and in under two hours you’ll get a logo back for $5. Need a website? You don’t need a professional, just go to Wix or Squarespace, it’s free. Hell, if Keanu can design his website while standing on a motorcycle seat and gas tank as he surfs down a deserted desert road, surely anyone can do it. Need a commercial to promote your business? The kid next door has an iphone in his pocket and imovie on his laptop. Actually, don’t bother with the kids next door, hire director Steven Soderbergh. He plans on using his iphone for all new movies he produces.
The phenomenon of struggling to provide a comfortable life for ones family amid competition isn’t new, nor is it just confined to my profession. I also understand that this is evolution, but evolution by subtraction is still subtraction. I love Amazon! I absolutely do!! I’m a proud, card-carrying Prime member going on eight years now; but, how many mom and pops has it laid to waste? For that matter, how many behemoth, flagship businesses and malls has it put out of business? And while Amazon is trying to create portal businesses for some of the displaced, the revenue is still based on commoditized rates, and niche at best. I also don’t want to overlook that the vast majority of our society’s population doesn’t have the education, the financial wherewithal, the stomach, the street smarts, the skill… and so many other excuses to open their own businesses.
Companies are having mass layoffs at alarming rates. Profits are dwindling and companies can’t afford, or say they can’t afford, the overhead they accrue. Those company’s lucky enough to ride out the proverbial storm rarely return to pre-downturn employment levels. Management proved that the work could get done with less bodies and be more profitable. And just because we are building more and more roads and infrastructure doesn’t mean that all of the white collar employees filing for unemployment will be running in droves to fill in potholes, or lay new pavement, or run a backhoe. And just to illustrate that I’m not the only one who sees the glass as half-empty on this issue (I’m mostly a glass-is-half-full guy… HELL I’M A REDSKINS FAN FOR G-D’S SAKE!!!!!), Elon Musk, the great Elon Musk says that artificial intelligence is what scares him the most and he’s spending billions to try and stop the AI apocalypse. So let me get this straight, if everything is a commodity, companies are laying off people in droves, the jobs that are left are likely going to be taken over by robots that will have the intelligence to fix themselves and whatever software bugs or viruses they get. Oh yeah, we’re also living longer as a society and as if that weren’t enough to think about, an overwhelming majority of the world is saving less and less with many having little to no retirement savings. So we’ve got that going for us.
I worry that a civilized nation that is seemingly becoming more uncivil by the second; a nation where the cost of homes, cars, healthcare, tuition, food and so much more sits at unfathomable heights; a nation that seems to want to shed far more higher-paying, experienced, integrative jobs for “single skill specialization tasks” (aka lower paying jobs); may some day go from educated (poor education system aside!) and industrialized (less industrial but more digitally communicationalized) to third-world poverty levels … overnight… while I’m awake… thinking about all the stuff I just wrote about… while everyone else sleeps… soundly.
That is all.