Competition among giants can be a fierce thing. Those of you who know my background know I spent 22 years in the banking industry, specifically, the credit card business. Until our division was sold, I worked for Citibank and worked my way up to Vice President of National Sales where I dealt with some of our largest clients and prospects. Back then Citibank was the largest issuer of Visa and MasterCards in the world. One of their great coups was the co-branded American-Advantage Card with American Airlines. This was certainly a marriage of giants.

Back then Citibank, Visa and MasterCard had an arch rival; American Express. It was almost taboo to mention that nefarious name inside our corporate walls. They were perceived as classy, expensive and upscale while bankcards like Visa and MasterCard were pedestrian. The co–brand with American Airlines would add a level of prestige for the travelling executive to collect air miles for free travel as they spent using the card.

That was all 15 to 20 years ago. So, what is this history lesson all about? Just this. I opened my mail this morning and found a solicitation from Citibank’s credit card business inviting me to sign up for a no-fee American Express card with American Airlines mileage awards attached. Wow, the difference time can make. Arch rivals now bosom buddies. I know some late industry execs that are likely rolling over in their graves. So what’s my point?

Just like the big guys, we small business owners need to adapt; to embrace new ideas. Both Amex and Citicards are under pressure in this economy. They can join forces and survive or falter. American Airlines, getting clobbered by the highest costs in the industry, hope their loyalty programs will keep people flying them. Me, I’m looking for ways to increase my effectiveness rather than working 18 hours a day. I want to focus on the business activities I enjoy and that result in making money instead of the mundane time wasters that rob my precious minutes and hours.

Twenty years ago, I would never have anticipated an alliance between Citibank Visa/MasterCard and American Express and yet here we are. We too have to look forward to new possibilities in our businesses; new models. One thing I’m investing in for my future is tools and ideas to maximize my effectiveness. You should too!

We can be busy or productive. Profits come from productivity and effectiveness. What new methods, tools or techniques have you found that are helping you be more effective? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

To your success…