Would You Have the Guts to Make Your Business Model Walk the Plank?

Not all, but I think most, small business owners at some time reach a crossroads with either their business model as a whole, or specific services and products. Is it worth it? Should I cease and desist, or give it more time? Should I make a change?

Tough questions.

Just recently, a local business that I support weekly asked those tough questions and decided:

  • No, it’s not worth it.
  • It is time to cease and desist.
  • Yes, we need to make a change.

I’m sad, but I understand.

I’ve been “a regular” at Wildflower Goat Farm for about 4 years. They sell – and always have sold – raw goat milk and eggs from free-range hens. I’ll spare you the soapbox speech about the virtues of those items, but I will share that they’ve become staples in our home. Taste, price – I love both. Then there’s the buying experience of feeling transported back to a more simple time and place. What grocery or health food store trusts you enough to set out a cash box for you to drop your payment in after you’ve helped yourself to its products? There’s also getting greeted by their miniature collie (and my little buddy) Frosty…and the opportunity to pet the goats (goats rock!). Yes, I really do love everything about buying from them.

And soon, I’ll be saying that I “loved” buying from them.

Wildflower Goat Farm is in the process of phasing out its long-standing goat milk and egg business to instead sell custom-cut wooden boards made from old beams in barns and other structures. When they shared the news with me, I felt like I got hit with a wooden plank.

My immediate reaction: guilt. Yes, guilt. What if I would have bought 1 gallon per week instead of just a half? Did those 6 weeks when I steered clear of eggs to unscientifically test the theory that I might have a slight food allergy tank their revenue?

After talking with them a bit more, I found that there were a number of considerations that led them to their decision to make the milk and eggs business walk the plank:

  • Revenue that was unpredictable.
  • Inventory that was either in too short supply or too excessive (a problem with perishables!).
  • Lack of human resources to sustain the high-maintenance business operations. (The kids on this family-run farm are all growing up, getting married and moving on.)

So why go from eggs and milk to wood? I didn’t ask what sort of market research they did to arrive at that choice. But based on the strong business acumen that seems almost innate in the Amish and Mennonite entrepreneurs of this area, I imagine they have a pretty good idea that they can make this work.

Moral of the story: Any business, no matter how much of an “institution”, is not immune to the need for adaptation – or even a complete overhaul. Ask yourself the tough questions when evaluating the state of your business, and be objective when answering them.

As for my friends at Wildflower Goat Farm…I wish them success as they transition to their new line of business. And I’ll savor and appreciate every egg and drop of goat milk while supplies last.

Your turn! Ever have to make a significant change to your business model? How has your business evolved over time?


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