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Persevering in Pittsburgh

Persevering in Pittsburgh

I’m on my way home from addressing the Pittsburgh Chapter of the National Speakers Association. “Pittsburgh” is a bit of a stretch, since they meet in a place that seems to me to be clearly closer to Denver, but they are a nice group of people and we had a good time. This is my last “work” of the year, paid or pro bono.

I began traveling to Pittsburgh frequently in the 90s when Calgon became a client for over five years (it was owned at the time my Merck). I labored through the old, terrible, junkyard airport, and was relieved when they built a state-of-the-art, aeronautical palace during my commuting. Pittsburgh had one of the first of the modern airports, with Bally, Nine West, and high-end jewelers surrounding diverse food courts.

That was when Pittsburgh was the hub for USAir, and that was another age.

Returning today, I find the huge facility deserted. A pterodactyl could fly down the concourses unimpeded and, for the most part, unseen. At 8:30 last night, disembarking from my flight, I found the stores closing up. Today, awaiting my flight home, the workers are largely reading or chatting. Nothing is crowded.

There once were three USAir clubs on the concourses, and now there is only one, with two employees sitting idly at the reception desk, a bartender well into her 70s who can easily handle the “rush” of an occasional customer, and enough space to give each of us in there the equivalent of a huge living room for ourselves.

This general geographic area is doing pretty well economically, but the airport is enough to depress you, especially when you know how furiously busy it once was. Someone in the session I addressed told me that to go from Pittsburgh to California, you have to go through Philadelphia. Progress this is not.

My moral to you is never trust your business or your fate to a single source. The City Fathers here thought that USAir was as permanent as granite, but it proved to be as tenuous as gossamer. When USAir went though its umpteenth bankruptcy (which is does with the regularity of the tides) it simply pulled its hub and moved to Charlotte.

I worked for Merck for 12 years, but I also had scores of other clients. When Merck and I finally parted company after a great run—and who knew whether it would be 10, 12, or 14 years—I regretted the loss but didn’t suffer for it.

Don’t entrust your business to a single source. Trust me, you don’t want to have to fly through Philly to get to the Coast.

© Alan Weiss 2007. All rights reserved.

Written by

Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

Comments: 1

  • Bob Poole

    December 8, 2007

    Having called Pittsburgh home, it is very sad to hear your comments and see what has happened. You are spot on with the admonition to never trust your business to a single source. When I moved there in 1979 it was a city with the distinction of being the third largest corporate headquarters in the USA. Now, it really is a shell of itself and it rivals Dade County, FL for the oldest average population. Many of the brightest move on to other cities. Pittsburgh has so many wonderful attributes but so very few leaders.

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