Things change so fast these days in business that your first priority as an entrepreneur is to stay current, by talking to customers, peers, and experts. Secondly, you must constantly communicate suggested changes to your team, implement necessary pivots, and realign all the elements of your business, including partners, investors, and vendors. No change means falling behind.
The days are gone when growing a business meant putting repeatable processes in place, settling into a groove, and simply cranking up volume. Now it’s all about how fast you recognize and adapt to market change, new competitors, and new technology. Here are eight key principles I have learned from experience as a business advisor to keep you on the right track:
- Regularly realign your business vision and goals. Smart entrepreneurs overtly plan every month to re-sync their vision and objectives with newly-learned market realities. This means regular updates are required to your business plan, marketing message, social media, and website content. Static content quickly becomes dead content.
- Start slow, build momentum, and keep accelerating. Too many entrepreneurs start fast, but lose momentum and the ability to change as the organization grows. It’s better to listen carefully, test them market, and take baby steps in the beginning. Build the ability to change into your processes, so that pivots later don’t introduce delays into your business.
- Pay particular attention to advisor and investor input. Investors and advisors are typically super-sensitive to market evolution, and should be seen as your early-warning system for change. Failure to react quickly often leads to funding freezes and founder replacements. Smart entrepreneurs restrain their ego and don’t react defensively to input.
- Foster a culture and reward system encouraging change. Incenting and rewarding new initiatives, versus penalties for stepping outside the box, will greatly facilitate your ability to keep up with change. Your team will follow what you do, not what you say, so you have to be a role model for market and customer sensitivity. Keep change positive.
- Never stop communicating, even when the message is clear. Every executive I know hears the same complaint from their team, “Why didn’t someone tell me about the change?” As a rule of thumb, you need to repeat every important message at least four times, in different contexts, to even dream that anyone will adopt it as their own.
- Be ready to reshuffle team members to expedite change. Not everyone will have the right skills or the right mindset for new initiatives. Bringing in some new blood will hasten any change, and moving people out who are resistant to change is the key to success. Initiate new strategic partnerships and investigate acquisitions versus in-house changes.
- Define and use market metrics to tune your plan. Businesses often settle on one social media or distribution channel based on initial testing, and never look back. These days, new channels appear almost daily, and old ones lose their luster. You need metrics to spot these changes, and regular new initiatives to test new and old alternatives.
- Regularly update internal process tools and technology. This means setting a culture of continuous improvement in processes, as well as products. Measure your productivity increases against current competitors, rather than against your own baseline. You may be improving by your own standards, but losing ground as new competitors move faster.
At the highest level, maintaining focus is still the most critical requirement. Keeping up with change is not just an “additive” process. Things that no longer apply or work must be deleted, or the result will be bloated, complex, and slow processes. Per the guidance of Jim Barksdale back in his FedEx days, “The main thing is to keep the Main Thing as the main thing.”
The Main Thing in every business today is to provide an experience that is so positively memorable that customers become your biggest advocates, via word-of-mouth, social media, and the multitude of review sites. If this isn’t happening for your business, you are already behind the curve for change and realignment. It’s time to pick up the pace or you may lose the race.