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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Wallingford in a changing universe

As published in the Record Journal (page D03) on Sunday October 20, 2013 – by Jason Zandri

The one constant in the universe is change. The greatest danger a business, a municipality or an individual can succumb to is an irrational fear of the unknown.

The CEO of Borders Books embraced technology use as well as the changes in the business landscape of the corporation he led. What he lacked was the true understanding of the depth of the change. Believing that loss leaders like the Nook and Kindle readers, the hardware of his competitors which lose money on every sale, should be something his company should avoid, he made a bet on what he knew best – his historical customer base and what he believed they wanted. They would always want to hold a real book in their hand.

His knowledge and understanding of his customer base and decades of experience would help him and Borders Books weather their financial storm.

Today that corporation is gone because it resisted the direction of their market; they were unable to see the full scope of the future of their venerable business, and the choice of losing money on devices for sales of e-books was not prudent in the short term. Yet that lesson is a core teaching in business and economics – “give away the razor, sell the blades.”

There are times in all our lives when we become so set on how we’ve always done things that we believe there is no better way to do anything and that we have perfected our craft.

Then something in the landscape shifts and all things are not equal. The shift has already occurred in Wallingford’s landscape and as we continue to do the same things we’ve always done, they are becoming increasingly less effective.

Change is inevitable, predictable and beneficial – it is a wave that you can choose to ride on or be drowned under but it is a force that cannot be ignored because it brings the future, a future that will not just happen but one that we will create.

Wallingford has the ability to do more, with less, even in “these trying times,” as that statement ends up being relative; it just depends on how you want to go about it.

Are times today worse than they were in 2007 when things were still booming? I suppose if you are just looking at the early and mid-2000s.

There are times in our country’s history that make the boom of the early and mid-2000s look paltry just as there were times in the 30s that make today look like paradise.

We can better leverage technology to complete more tasks and move projects along; this has the effect to allow us to get started on the next task sooner.

We can offer more services that offset some costs – by going to e-payments and e-billing as options for those that want them, we save postage and handling costs and paperwork becomes reduced.

The less paperwork that people in the offices need to handle, the more they are freed to do other things; this becomes an increase in service for things that must be done manually.

Proper planning for future expenditures via cost analysis allows Wallingford to project what should be deferred for “down the road” as costs look to decline (certain hardware and some technology) and where costs will increase like labor-based jobs such as road paving that also have a petroleum cost in the materials used – both of which increase year over year making it more prudent to review the cost of doing that work now rather than later.

Being more open and providing more access into how and what local government is doing and making residents better aware of what is going on and letting them feel like they can be part of the process fosters and grows that sense of collectiveness and ownership.

This is our hometown; let’s create Wallingford’s future together.

Jason Zandri is the Democratic challenger for mayor of Wallingford.

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