Free agent status for everyone!

The world of work has changed. We are all free agents.

Even if we don’t change jobs or stay with one employer for decades, we are all now free agents.

That will be the theme of a series of posts. Probably the theme for a new blog, since those discussions will wander far away from issues of immediate interest to the nonprofit community.

What has happened?

The nature of work has changed.

How?  Some descriptions.

In the distant past, perhaps 20 or 30 years ago, you bought your books in a small bookstore.

Then along came Crown Books, which I visited in the DC suburbs when I was in college way back when. They had tons of books, probably several times as many as a local bookstore. Wow!

Then came Borders along with Barnes and Noble.  They had even more books and opened up hundreds of stores.  They did in the local stores.

Then came Amazon. 

They carry hundred of thousands of books, all in stock.  (A book I wrote a review on is currently rank #1,625,000 on the best seller list )  Any book is available in two days.  Tomorrow, if you are impatient.  Priced 30 or 40% below the big chains. They did in Borders, which is in liquidation and will close all of their stores in the next month or so.  (By the way, Borders was in their sixth or eighth week of discounts before the history books were finally priced below what’s available every day at Amazon.)

If you worked in a small, local bookstore, you lost your job a long time ago. If you worked for Borders, you are in your last few weeks of employment.

Is that the end of the ripple effect? No.

If you work for Barnes and Noble, it might be smart to freshen up your resume.

Likewise if you work at Best Buy, or any big electronics store. 

Reminds me of the old joke – You know what Best Buy and Borders are? . . . Amazon’s showrooms.

A friend of mine drove a forklift delivering huge rolls of paper to the printing presses. The plant closed. (Businesses don’t need as many printed forms today.)  I doubt he will ever get another job as a forklift operator. All those jobs are now in the Amazon distribution centers. (An exaggeration, but the number of forklift operators is going to shrink drastically because of Amazon.)

Changes like that are taking place everywhere. Everywhere. Book publishing. Law firms. Small retail shops. All industries.

That will be the topic for these posts.

One Response to Free agent status for everyone!

  1. My favorite example is the grocery industry.

    Years and years ago, you had separate bakeries, meat markets, and the like, and then A&P came and wiped them out.

    As time passed, we started moving toward supermarkets. The Kroger and Safeway chains and others then wiped out A&P.

    As time passed, the markets grew even larger. Today everyone is worried that Wal-Mart will wipe out the Kroger and Safeway chains.

    Thirty years from now, protest groups will be organizing to protect the beloved and traditional Wal-Marts against some new threat. Similarly, Amazon will eventually become yesterday’s news.

    Even the companies that survive over the years – IBM comes to mind – can only doing so by radically changing their business focus over the generations.

    Returning to the topic of your blog, this can also affect non-profits. Church membership rises in some denominations (and individual churches) while it falls in others. Other non-profits that were extremely popular at some point may subsequently find themselves with declining donors, contributions, and interest.

    How can a non-profit ensure that it will be relevant ten, twenty, or thirty years from now?

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