You never know how dispensable you are until you see life going on without you.
By life, I’m not referring to “life,” what your family and friends experience after you’ve passed on. Rather, I mean the everyday business of what passed as your daily activity, be it gainful employment or volunteer community work, or whatever kept you occupied while breathing.
No one is irreplaceable, we used to say at my old employer whenever someone left, voluntarily or otherwise. That truism has more meaning to me in the last few days.
For just the second time in the last 22 years I am not participating in and overseeing my former magazine’s signature, 3-1/2 day retail conference and exposition, SPECS (the first time being in 1996 when my mother died the day I was to fly to the event). SPECS ends today, concluding its 46th year as the premiere conference serving those involved in designing, building and maintaining stores. (SPECS is an acronym for Store Planning Equipment Construction Services Seminar.)
While overall registration at SPECS is down from a year ago when roughly 1,200 attended, it’s a function of the economy, not my absence. The same reason holds true for any softness in magazine and Internet advertising. That now old political line, “It’s the economy, stupid,” really does apply here.
Part of me wants to reject the notion I no longer am needed, that my successors as editor and publisher and chairman of SPECS have trekked on successfully without me. But more of me is proud I did what any good leader is supposed to do—I left in place managers who could assume command at a moment’s notice.
I might have been missed by some SPECS attendees, the same way I missed seeing old friends. But I learned early in my career as a journalist that the public cares more for the product than any one individual.
In business, with rare exceptions, we are all dispensable.