Big Internet, Little Internet

The Coca-Cola Co. announced recently it had bought, and will re-develop, a vast stretch of land opposite my kids’ small private school in downtown Atlanta. On the next block an Embassy Suites Hotel is going up, and across from there, Turner Broadcasting is renovating its giant CNN Center. In this environment the school goes unnoticed but I believe it will survive (even thrive) because it’s small, flexible, and it teaches kids well.

Much the same thing is happening in electronic commerce right now. Amazon links with Dell, while media empires swarm about Lycos and Wall Street salivates over billion-dollar moves in the price of the stocks. The assumption is these “big Internet” companies will drive traffic back-and-forth between them, while everyone else will have to survive on crumbs.

The assumption is false, because technology companies aren’t skyscrapers. They’re more like the tenants in those skyscrapers. I got another reminder of that this week when the last of the worldly goods of Hayes Microcomputer Products Inc. went on the block. Hayes once dominated the modem business, but a few mistakes were enough to kill it utterly.

The lesson for your store is to concentrate on serving your customers, and not worry about the alliances being signed over your head. The Internet remains wide-open, and a few links between major players won’t change that. If you serve your customers well, they’ll tell their friends about you, and your business will prosper.

All this is affirmed with an old prayer — strength to change what you can, patience to bear the things you can’t change, and the wisdom to know the difference. Many of today’s Internet skyscrapers will come crashing down, some of them soon. But if your foundation is strong, you may yet replace one of them.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

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