The United States Postal Service recently announced that it's getting into the fashion business. According to corporate licensing manager Steven Mills, USPS is launching a men’s outerwear line called “Rain Heat & Snow.” But women aren't being left out of the fun; the USPS plans to launch a women’s line soon as well. In case you want to try the clothes on before buying them, they’ll be available in major department stores next year.
The USPS lost nearly $16 billion last year, is rapidly losing customers for its core first-class mail product and has maxed out its multibillion-dollar line of credit from Uncle Sam. Faced with an unprecedented bankruptcy, the executives decide to launch a clothing line. This is a perfect example of decision-making based on desperation and being out of touch with reality; two mistakes that small-business owners in trouble make regularly. The results hardly end well.
When your business is facing a financial crisis and your options are narrowing, bad ideas can sometimes disguise themselves as good ideas because you need to believe that a solution exists. Telling yourself that an idea “might just be crazy enough to work” is better left to characters in movies. It's true that radical change can sometimes lead to success, but the decision-making that leads to that change needs to be sound. I can’t think of a coherent line of thinking that says the USPS should be in fashion.
Another problem is losing touch with reality. As the situation around you worsens, it's easy to lose sense of what your business can realistically do as you try to find a solution to your problem. Or worse, you think that sideshow distractions can solve a core business problem. If your job is to deliver things from person A to person B and you lose $16 billion doing it, perhaps selling clothes seems like a better idea but it has nothing to do with the core business nor could it solve financial problems that are so acute.
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