It happens to everyone eventually. One day your business is the embodiment of the cutting edge, but within a few years — or even months — your team is scrambling just to keep up with competitors.
It’s a problem not solved simply by working harder or cutting costs, but one that requires introspection and reinvention. Although the end goal of some industries might remain the same for years, the “how” aspect of the game will almost certainly change.
All industries eventually become outdated. Case studies have consistently shown that computing power has doubled every year since 1965, and given technology's exponential rate of progress, the window of relevancy is increasingly narrow.
Though there is no outright cure or escape from this cycle, there are opportunities within the chaos. By following a few sensible steps, you can give your business the tune-up it needs to confidently forge a way forward into the next era.
1. Read the room
Before committing to any major moves, take an objective view of your industry as it currently stands. Consider it an inventory of sorts of the past 10 to 20 years without your personal standing or desires weighted.
This is not the time for sentimental attachment or continuing strategies rooted in mere habit or ease. This is the time to collect everything you can from past to present and research trends and new practices like your business’s life depends upon it.
Identify what has stayed constant for more than a few years and what is all but certain to be phased out soon. It’s clear across many industries that trends such as virtual teams are the future, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to make any drastic action immediately. Consider all the options that are out there, then identify those that fit your business and integrate naturally within it.
For some trends, the data and verdict have been decided. For example, studies have shown that the remote workforce has grown by 80 percent over the past decade. When the writing on the wall is this legible, it is time to start positioning your business for a pivot. While a substantial business model shift might initially make you uncomfortable, the wave of change is coming regardless.
There’s not an industry out there that can afford to rest on its laurels too long these days. Read the room of your industry patiently and impartially; once you feel you have absorbed enough information, make your move.
2. Commit to a strategy
Once you have the hard data in hand, it’s time to whittle down the options and commit. While it may be tempting to do a drastic overhaul of your entire business, this is a desperate measure that could end doing more harm than good. Start small, roll out your new strategy incrementally, and, if proven effective, make it the new norm.
This sentiment is echoed by Aidan McClean, CEO of UFODRIVE, which is currently the only all-electric vehicle rental platform operating in Europe. In a recent email exchange, McClean wrote: “To put a new twist on old industries, you need to be willing to question what’s long been widely accepted. Any 21st century operating model has to be somewhat fluid, but when a strategy is settled upon, it must be followed by relentless execution. It’s a mindset that requires complete and total commitment on the part of the entrepreneur. We didn’t reinvent the wheel; we just committed to doing things differently from everybody else — often, that’s all that’s needed.”
When you find the angle or niche within which you are confident you have an advantage, don’t hesitate. Commit enough resources into the agreed-upon strategy and then allow it enough breathing room to flourish.
3. Track and adapt
If you aren’t tracking results and gathering data like it's gold, then none of the preceding steps will matter much. Keeping a finger on the pulse of your business has always been important, but it’s now vital to track and adapt to trends as they unfold in real time.
Set clear key performance indicators, goals and timelines which are shared and known throughout your whole team. See where you can draw a distinct line of causation between your new strategy and results, rather than just seasonal or random correlation. Without objective measurements, even solid strategies can founder and lead to frustration when it is unclear whether they are working.
Having a measurable threshold of success matters. Just as you were impartial in deciding what old practices might best be left behind, if all the signs point to your new strategy not working, it might be time to pull the plug. There’s an inherent risk of attempting anything new, and it is best not to dwell.
Tracking and adapting through both booms and busts is no longer just a healthy practice, it’s now almost non-negotiable when trying to revamp a business model for the future.
4. Prepare to keep changing
It might not be a comforting thought, but the truth is that the finish line no longer exists for many in the business world. You can set certain benchmarks of success, but once attained, these goals commonly shift or grow in scale.
Where once technology served businesses as a mere tool, now a reversal has occurred, in which almost all industries are at the whim of massive tech trends. No industry is insulated, and only through near-constant research and refinement can you keep your business not just surviving but thriving.
If you want to make it for the long haul, then don’t even bother asking when the changes will stop. Old and ineffective business models are falling to the wayside faster than ever, and those willing to adapt and grow are already reaping the rewards.
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