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Monday, December 29, 2008

Lights Out

In case you haven’t heard, the power went out across the entire island of Oahu Friday night. Now I’m not going to get into the question of how this could possibly happen only two years after it happened before, that’s been asked enough already in the press. No, what I’m going to talk about is how some businesses stepped up during and after the blackout – and others didn’t. Think about your own business and how you’d react in adverse conditions (such as the sour economy we’re going through?).

My first shout of high praise goes to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, the smaller of the two local newspapers (yes, Honolulu, a city of only about a million people has two daily newspapers). I generally read the papers every day, and I usually try to read them both. The fact that I primarily am interested in the comics, and that they each publish different ones, is irrelevant to this discussion.

On Saturday morning, after power had been restored, I was very interested in finding out about the power outage. I didn’t know the extent of the outage at the time, or how long it lasted (what do you do at night when the power goes out? Sleep), so I figured I’d get the paper and find out. I knew, of course, that the papers might have some trouble, but, again, I didn’t know the extent of the outage. There were no papers in the morning. OK. There were no papers into the afternoon. OK, must have been worse than I thought. Then, finally, late in the afternoon there was a paper.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, perpetual underdog in the local newspaper market, had managed to get out an edition. Not only did they manage to out maneuver their larger rival, I like the way they did it. Because the blackout was island-wide and lasted about 12 hours, they were very limited on what they could get out. So what they did was print a one-section edition. But within that one section, they printed one to two pages from every section of their normal paper. They had the blackout covered, of course, on the front page and a couple of pages inside, but they also had a couple pages of national and international news, business, sports, and even the comics. Sweet!

The larger paper (Honolulu Advertiser, if you must know), did nothing. So, while I’ve always enjoyed the Star-Bulletin, I am now a raving fan. That’s what business is all about; being flexible and adapting to the situation, out maneuvering the competition, and getting your product or service to the market even in the most extreme circumstances. I’m going to be writing about some other Honolulu businesses that stepped up, and others that didn’t, so come back.

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