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A headline in the January 24, 2011 Wall Street Journal states, “Post Office Eyes Closing Thousands of Post Offices.” Of course, many people, in those small towns where closures will take place, are upset.

Let’s not debate the Postal Service’s efficiency but rather compare it to small business in general (and maybe life in general). The post office has a lot of money invested in hundreds, maybe thousands, of buildings and operations that lose money, serve a very small population and aren’t competitive in many areas (FedEx, UPS, private mailbox services).

When I hear stories like this I always come back to an acquisition a client did in the 1990’s. The firm he bought expanded into another market, it wasn’t working and their strategy became, “we’ll sell our way to success because we have sunk so much money into this market.” Of course they didn’t sell their way to success and he bought the local operation, not the remote location, and grew it into a very successful and well-respected business.

I see similar things all the time. It could be an employee who is not performing and the owner or manager relates the cost of the last six months salary to anticipated (wishful thinking) future performance. Or a marketing campaign that just isn’t working but because, “we’ve invested so much in printing, design, marketing consultant (take your pick) we’re going to keep going on it.”

I also see business buyers exhibit this trait. They work on a deal, it’s not going anywhere, the company isn’t doing as well as it had been or the seller is difficult to deal with and yet they want to keep plowing ahead. “I’ve got so much time invested in this I want to see if I can make it happen.”

These costs are there no matter what you do in the future. Sure an employee, a vendor or even a customer will be unhappy if you change focus. But that’s life. There will always be another business to buy. My advice to the post office is to not worry about what the politicians in districts where offices are closing, do what’s best for the organization and the overall good (the taxpayers).

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