Small Business Advice
Business Must Anticipate Change. It's Inevitable.
QUESTION: My business is doing well, but experience has taught me that I should not become complacent. How can one stay competitive and ahead of the competition?
ANSWER: It has been said there are only two things in life that one can be certain of … death and taxes. I would add a third certainty… change.
My grandmother was born before the turn of the last century. In her lifetime she witnessed the evolution of the Model T Ford to a man walking on the moon. Those of us alive today have witnessed the digital evolution which is changing as you read this column.
In business, change is inevitable. There are many examples of strong companies that lost market share or went out of business because they failed to notice or misinterpreted innovations in their respective fields of endeavor.
Kodak, founded in 1888, had a monopoly on camera film and developing, but failed to embrace the evolution of digital cameras. Borders bookstores also failed to embrace e-books and online sales marketing, and filed for bankruptcy. More recently we have learned the iconic Sears, founded in 1886, is one of the latest brick and mortar victims due to their failure to fully recognize the threat of giant, Amazon.com.
As a business owner you must look beyond the current business environment and try to anticipate changes before your competition does. Here are a few tips you should consider:
- Talk to your customers – Are their needs changing? What is their competition forcing them to do and what needs can you fulfill?
- Talk to your suppliers – They are probably examining their marketing strategy too. They may be aware of innovations in the marketplace. You are their customer, and maybe you can help each other.
- Join a trade association – While their members may be competitors, you may be surprised how much you can learn from them in a social setting. Check out their press releases and websites, too.
- Talk to your employees – They deal with your customers daily and hear their problems first hand. Involve them in your decision making and acknowledge their contributions. This will improve morale, and happy employees make for happy customers.
In closing, advances in technology will continually change how small and big companies do business. Anticipating trends is never easy, but it is essential to long-term success.
Gray Poehler is a volunteer with the Naples Chapter of SCORE.
A SCORE counselor since 2005, Gray Poehler owned and operated an independent insurance agency with 20 employees and two locations. He has earned the Certified Insurance Counselor designation and is familiar with both personal and commercial property and casualty insurance. Areas of expertise include: Business Finance and Accounting; Business Strategy and Planning; Business Operations; Human Resources and Internal Communications; Sales, Marketing and Public Relations.