The tried-and-true basics

Each generation has learned from previous generations and built upon that

I recently met a young woman who graduated college a year ago. She got herself a great job with a startup that requires lots of travel, at least a few days each week, and she was absolutely delighted with it. I was intrigued.

I’ve done a lot of business travel myself all over the country and all over the world. Most of it was back in the days when the airlines actually tried to treat us like human beings. Most flights over an hour or two had a meal instead of just a little bag of peanuts. Admittedly, it wasn’t usually great, but they were trying. They even gave us little pillows and blankets. Remember the hot towels just before landing? They made us feel almost human again.

They even had something called legroom.

Getting back to our little friend, who is truly petite, her first flight ever was a year ago in July. She has no idea what she’s missing. For her, legroom is not a problem; she could be comfortable almost anywhere. I was reminded that those of us who are disgruntled with air travel remember how it used to be.

Our friend works for a startup with an innovative product. Unfortunately, they’re in a lot of trouble, and she might not have her dream job much longer. It sounds like the management team may be suffering from her malaise — too young to know what it used to be like.

The company may be missing some of the basics. The most innovative inventors are not always the best people to produce their inventions. There seems to be a malaise in our country where everything that is not “new” new is not to be trusted and certainly not used.

The new innovation may be brilliant and new, but they still need good old-fashioned production know-how and financial management to produce it, and you need to get people to buy it. Although social media have changed a lot of things in sales, the basics still apply.

For instance, when cash is plentiful, travel is encouraged. They can go almost anywhere with little justification. When money becomes tight, all travel becomes prohibited, even necessary travel, the absence of which hinders both the smooth operation of production as well as the ability of the salespeople to sell. This on-again, off-again jumbling is truly disruptive, making the company look like an unreliable supplier.

You can’t spend more than you make, at least not for long. Cash flow is life’s blood; without it you die. Your body may know how to manage it automatically, but most organizations need someone who knows how to make it work. It’s not a problem unless people actually want to get paid regularly.

We have thousands of years of history showing, for the most part, each generation learned from previous generations and built upon that. Can you imagine where we’d be if each generation had to reinvent the wheel for themselves? The Apple Watch may be an incredible device, but their engineers began with an ordinary watch and added features to it. Part of the work was already done for them; they didn’t have to start from scratch. Even the automobile built upon the horse and buggy.

There’s no doubt each generation has a lot to contribute. There are stories of 11-year-olds inventing things and making a bundle on them. Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook, among others, were all started by comparative youngsters at the time.

There are also stories of older folks starting very successful companies. In 1952, when he was 65, Harlan David Sanders started a fast-food chain. We know him as Colonel Sanders and his creation is Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Not everything our elders and predecessors have done is bad or outmoded. There’s a lot to be gained by building on what we’ve been given, and the companies that thrive know that.

Hopefully, our friend’s company will figure it out before it’s too late.

Ronald J. Bourque, a consultant and speaker from Windham, has had engagements throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He can be reached at 603-898-1871 or

Categories: Business Advice