Our industry is going through a tremendous amount of change. We have to get ahead of the curve or we risk being left behind in a declining business. We need to figure out how to present ourselves in the best light to create opportunity in the future. What should we say about our future when we talk to potential and existing clients? What will result in a thriving, profitable business?
THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: Build a business that’s worth having in the future. Talk to successful, thriving customers about where they’re going and what they’ll need. Create a voice that mirrors your most profitable, forward-thinking customers and prospects.
Recognize day-to-day demands on your time and attention for what they are — a distraction. Your job is to lead the company to the future, so congratulations for the question you brought forward.
Be willing to make the hard choices about allocation of resources. That may mean telling employees their skill sets are becoming outdated and giving them an opportunity to learn new skills. It may include reduced funding for previously favored products or services. And legacy customers, also on decline, may not get as much attention in the future.
Focus on profit. Which products or services have rising margins? Where is the opportunity greatest because customers can’t get enough? How can you change the way you do business in order to significantly reduce future production costs?
Get an education on the changes that are impacting your industry. What demographic shifts are there? What problems are your most innovative customers facing? How does technology help or hurt your business? How sustainable is your present and future model? What about the economics of your business — what risks can you afford to take and in what order? What’s going to be fast-growing and highly profitable in the future?
Consider what has to change with the culture of your organization. Do you have the right talent pool? What needs to change about the ways that employees do their work? How self-sufficient and independent is your workforce? Can your employees keep up with technology’s best practices for the 21st century?
One of your best sources of insight may well be your most forward-thinking clients. They’re not always the biggest ones. Look for the clients who exhibit a laser-like focus on the future of their industries. Find out what kinds of problems they’re trying to solve and look for ways to help them.
Ask your customers about small, emerging competitors who might be ripe for acquisition. Those are often the most innovative businesses, but lack the resources to create everything they can imagine. Partner with them, or buy them outright in order to create future opportunities for both you and your customers.
Keep your eyes open for legacy opportunities. When buyers say they have trouble finding parts or services — that’s a key to finding a niche that everyone else has given up on. Consider how long that need is likely to exist — and if it’s for a long time, think about moving in to be the dominant player with the ability to demand higher prices as supply drops off.
Resist the temptation to use only your words to describe what your company does and where it’s going next. To attract new customers and grab more attention with existing ones, use their words, not just yours. Do interviews with leaders of the most innovative companies. Take detailed notes, or even better, get permission to record what they have to say. Listen to how they describe the changes their businesses are going through. Then, use that information to help you update the mission your company.
LOOKING FOR A GOOD BOOK? Try “Dual Transformation: How to Reposition Today’s Business While Creating the Future” by Scott D. Anthony, Clark G. Gilbert, Mark W. Johnson.