Change, risk and uncertainty have always been part of the business landscape. But in years gone by businesses could have been pretty certain of enjoying success for years to come if they managed to hit upon a winning formula.
Not so now. Remember Kodak? Technological innovation, globalization, demographic shifts and changing tastes can make this years winner into next years biggest loser.
For a few years now, a buzzword in the start-up community has been pivoting. What it means is testing and quickly shifting to plan B when plan A isn’t working. And perhaps surprisingly given the amount of time and effort that goes into researching and launching a start-up company, plan A doesnt work out on a pretty frequent basis.
So the new way to win is to be adaptable. The good news for small business owners is that adapting is easier than it is for large corporations and here is how to do it.
Dont wait for something to happen first. Be proactive and be the leader of change in your industry. Make sure that being willing and able to change is one of your companys core competencies.
Be highly observant. Notice closely what is happening in your industry. The good news is that there is a wealth of data around these days. You need to get good at finding information and analyzing it. Dont confine yourself to your own area, though. Look for developments in parallel industries that might be transferable.
Experiment. These days its possible to carry out inexpensive or speedy market tests before a full launch. Groupon is an example of how to do this effectively. It started out as an online activism service called The Point. That didnt work out so they created a blog and did a coupon promotion for a pizzeria located in their building. That worked well and they deduced from that experiment that what they had, in effect, done was to bring together a group of people to get a collective discount. From that small exercise, Groupon was born.
Learning. Instead of sticking rigidly to the past, being adaptable is about being really good at learning how to do new things.
Be decisive. You need to be able to make tough decisions. The old adage of indecision and delays are the parents of failure has never been truer.
The film Moneyball illustrated how the Oakland Athletics baseball team adapted in a way that allowed them to compete with richer teams. Their payroll was a fraction of that of the New York Yankees, for example. In order to compete, they pioneered a mathematically driven selection process for acquiring undervalued players. Instead of dying, they adapted and thrived. What are you waiting for? Time is moving fast in your industry too.