'New business' versus 'old business'

'New business' versus 'old business'

After the extensive comments and feedback on social media about last week’s post on the likes of Kathmandu and Macpac, it got me thinking about ‘new business’ versus ‘old business’.

It’s something that’s been cooking in my head for some time, and something that gave rise to our current cover story on Gen Y, featuring ambitious entrepreneurs Robert Bruce and Kirsti Grant – both of whom are definitely ‘new business’.

So what’s the difference?

Old business is the old boys’ network. It’s lunch at a private club accompanied by a lot of back-slapping. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. It’s the commodity economy and it acts without regard for sustainability. It’s in its 50s, connected to Alasdair Thompson on LinkedIn and is often xenophobic. It’s a giant steamroller coming soon to a local street near you.

New business, on the other hand, doesn’t shun Gen Y but rather embraces it. It’s the innovation economy and the ideas industry. It collaborates, forms collectives and exports weightless technology. It’s making money out of sustainability while saving it at the same time. New business welcomes and accounts for minorities, and it forms relationships and networks in business to get where it needs to be.

In short, new business is the future. And one of the biggest differences between old business and new business is that new business listens, converses, shares and uses social media, while old business is still in the business of telling us how it is. It’s a monologue versus a dialogue.

Sustainability and quality plays a huge part in new business. Yesterday, NZ Herald’s Sideswipe published a photo of broken outdoors camping equipment left to languish in skip bins at a campsite in the Coromandel.

“The near-new camping furniture in question costs next to nothing, but it breaks in no time and ends up spoiling our lovely beaches and ultimately going to land-fill," the reader wrote.

You can get rid of your broken or old gear – you can throw it out or give it away – but the planet can’t give it away. The planet can’t throw it out.

Beyond quality and sustainability, it’s of real concern to New Zealand business that once-mighty brands, once top-of-mind and a one-stop-shop for consumers, are now the subject of anger for so many.

At the same time, those who bought those same brands a good decade ago have a great, and enduring, affinity for them. I have a few pieces from 'back then', still going strong. Kathmandu and Macpac were the brands to wear in Dunedin in the late 1990s when I was a uni student. (OK, so were Barker’s men’s sweatpants, but it was the 90s.)

If only that brand affinity – that incredibly strong, enduring affinity – could be a consistent, persistent feature and live on in a ‘new business’ style Kiwi brands that we love and trust. (Such as Cactus Equipment, as Ben Kepes has already pointed out!)

Take a look around your company today and ask, is it new business, or old business? And what could you do to be more of the new, and less of the old?