Letting Go

Cutting The Cord

Organized abandonment is a regular and systematic search for products you should stop selling, markets you should exit and businesses you should quit. Leading candidates, Drucker says, are businesses with "a few good years left" and old or declining businesses that are absorbing resources that could best be used for other opportunities.

Think especially about abandoning established distribution channels, Drucker advises. For example, he says the automobile industry may soon have to abandon its traditional dealer network because of online automobile retailing and changing demographics among car buyers.

But organized abandonment can work in any industry and any company, and with any part of a company. Enron isn't the only electric utility abandoning activities and services once considered central to the field. Many other utility companies are unbundling or outsourcing jobs such as meter reading to other suppliers, says Collier. "They're abandoning those functions and activities they can't do competitively or that somebody else can do better," he explains.

Collier says a standard part of his consulting practice is what he calls "the Peter Drucker audit: Examine everything you do and [ask yourself,] if you weren't doing it already, would you start now?" That examination ranges from your corporate bylaws to forms employees are required to fill out. "We systematically go through [our company]," he says, "and get rid of everything that, if we were trying to capture market share today, we wouldn't do."

Another abandonment fan is Peter Weddle, an Old Greenwich, Connecticut, publisher of Weddle's Internet Recruiting Guide and Weddle's Guide to Employment Web site. Weddle advises his audience of executive recruiters to dump many of the practices that sustained them before electronic job-seeking became popular. Recruiters should stop responding to only the most qualified candidates for a position, he says. Instead, they should respond to everybody. And they should archive and keep on hand all resumes, rather than just those matching current openings, he adds.

The change is being forced, Weddle says, by a combination of the online recruiting boom and the tight labor market, which he foresees lasting at least several more years. Consequently, he says, "We have to abandon a notion of the labor market that is now obsolete."

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This article was originally published in the February 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Letting Go.

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