It is very easy and tempting for a business to get locked into whatever specific product or service they provide. After all they spent a lot of time and effort developing, marketing, and improving that product or service to get to where they are! But when you do that, your business becomes subject to the whims of technology and taste. You might be focused on selling cameras and developing film in an age when people store things on their computers and take pictures with their phones. Or perhaps you’re focused on publishing hard copy books, newspapers, and magazines when more and more people go to electronic sources for reading, whether for information or for pleasure.
As the business owner, you have to remember that the reason your business exists is not to sell a particular product or service, no matter how great it might be or how long you’ve been selling it. The reason your business exists is to solve a problem that customers have; your products are just a means to that end. As times change, it’s critically important to keep your eye on that goal of solving a problem and not just on any one particular way to do it. Question everything you do, at all times, and don’t take any strategy for granted.
Very few big companies are able to reinvent themselves like that. They have entrenched bureaucracies and fiefdoms that fight for their piece of the pie, losing sight of solving real problems for real consumers. The giants of one age are dinosaurs in the next, slowly treading water but failing to grow—and ultimately headed for failure. A great exception in recent years has been Apple, which transformed itself from a computer company to an entertainment delivery company, and even into a retail company. But such exceptions are few and far between.
Small businesses, on the other hand, have a great advantage when the situation changes. Because of their small size, they have the flexibility to adapt and change—as long as the leadership recognizes the need for reinvention and the importance of doing so. They do not have to overcome the same degree of inertia when they decide to change course, making it much easier to make the adjustments and even reversals necessary for long-term success.
When you are the entrepreneur, the small business owner, it just takes a confident decision to enact real change. You can reinvent what you do, because there is no group of power brokers you need to motivate. But you do need to get your team on board with what you’re doing and involve them in the decision-making process, with transparency to let them understand and buy into your decisions.
Long-term growth requires reinvention, because nothing lasts forever. A culture that encourages flexibility and puts the customer and his or her problems first will be more adaptive and responsive to changes that threaten an industry, giving you a better chance to overcome these obstacles and continue growing.