In my experience working with entrepreneurs, once they feel they have a winning formula for their business, they are often hesitant to change or update it.
They forget that adapting their company and themselves as their customers evolve is the key to long-term survival. Think of Blockbuster and Toys ‘R’ Us, both of whom missed customer changes and the move to online.
Every business owner needs to plan to reinvent their business regularly, or their competitors and their customers will make them obsolete. I’m not talking about just making incremental improvements in their products and processes, but more fundamental changes to the business model, such as the following:
1. Announce a new market launch that fits your core competency.
Every recognized brand, including Sears and Nintendo, need to show new life and vibrancy on a regular basis to keep the attention of new generations and existing customers.
Of course, it’s smart not to stray too far from your core competency for credibility and risk reduction.
For example, Uber recently made the move into food delivery with UberEATS. By drawing on the current network of drivers and the app technology it already has in place, UberEATS could be a major competitor for food delivery services such as DoorDash.
2. Create an overt strategy to react to emerging customer trends.
Remember when you were a brand new startup? You didn’t wait until a new market was totally proven before entering.
You always need an element of your organization whose mission is to actively look for early markets, and a process to test solution viability with real customers in the market.
Don’t be the next Xerox who totally missed the personal computer market, even though they had the technology and the processes well before Apple, IBM, and others. They were successful with business computers and technology, but didn’t see the change.
3. Expand into key new sales and delivery channels.
Today the Internet is the best example of a new sales and delivery channel that has transformed many businesses, and killed others.
For you, the future could be in using distributors, licensing to other brands, or international subsidiaries. When was the last time you tested on one of these channels?
Apple is an early example of adding a channel to expand, to become a “click-and-mortar” retailer, meaning they operate both physical and online stores. This was done in a complementary fashion to provide support and education, and not undermine sales.
4. Continually update your team with new people and technology.
While fully utilizing the skills of a proven team, it’s also critical that new blood and new technology be brought in regularly to challenge your norms and expectations.
Changing times calls for new skill sets, insights, and new cultures. You don’t need people fighting for status quo.
5. Look and act on ideas from your best and brightest within.
These are the people who really know your strengths, and the interests of your customers. In addition, if you don’t listen to and provide new challenges for them, they will leave and become your toughest competitors.
Not every initiative will succeed, but a culture of change is critical.
6. Enlist outside advisors who tell you what you need to hear.
We are all guilty of being too close to an issue, or harboring bias against change.
Thus smart business leaders proactively seek outside board members and advisors from other customer domains who can stretch their thinking, and give critical feedback on the existing strategy and actions.
7. Use outside investment and acquisition to expand your scope.
Even if your business success so far has been based on bootstrapping, it may be time to look to institutional investors to help you with acquisitions and new initiative funding. Their insights will broaden your view, and enhance your ability to keep up with a rapidly changing market.
Building a successful business is not a one-time effort. Long-term success and vitality requires a constant focus on finding the new magic in a new marketplace with new customers. What worked for you yesterday probably won’t keep you alive and competitive tomorrow.
Standing still is actually falling behind. What have you done lately to reinvent your business in the eyes of your customers?
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