As a business owner, you need to worry about more than just how your company currently operates – you also need to keep a constant eye on the future. The more you can anticipate the changing needs of your clients, your employees and the economy, the better prepared you are to take on any challenges that come your way.
The only constant in the world of business is the certainty of change. If you don’t create a plan for how to prepare for change, your company will fall behind and be at risk of disruption by competitors who are committed to strategic innovation. Whether you are preparing for positive changes (the explosive growth of your business), negative changes (a dip in the economy) or neutral changes (the shifting needs of your target market), being prepared is the key to ongoing success.
You can’t foresee everything that’s going to happen to or at your company. But you don’t need a crystal ball to make the kind of decisions that will benefit your business and those who work for you – you just need to be observant.
Anticipation is crucial to properly prepare for change. If you aren’t anticipating what could be coming toward you, then all you can do when change hits is react. That immediately puts you behind because you’re trying to correct and catch up instead of sprinting out ahead of the pack. That’s not a good place for any business.
Your ultimate competitive advantage is anticipation, so here are Tony’s 11 business triggers to be aware of as you learn how to prepare for change.
You might offer more value than your current competitors, but are you keeping an eye out for emerging companies? For instance, consider the initial appeal of Netflix. If you were operating a Blockbuster, you might have had a devoted following and offered superior products when compared to your top competitor, Hollywood Video. However, you weren’t aware a company like Netflix would come blow you out of the water.
When you prepare for change in the workplace, you’re constantly staying ahead of industry trends and gaining an edge on the competition. If a new business does gain prominence, don’t brush them off just because you’re currently at the top of the industry. Instead, look at what they’re doing, like mailing DVDs directly to customers’ homes, and see if your company can adopt and benefit from their practices.
The most highly advanced tools will one day be obsolete. VHS tapes quickly progressed to DVDs, which ultimately gave way to digital streaming services. We’re already seeing 3D and virtual reality viewing experiences popping up as mainstream entertainment. Regardless of what product or service you’re selling, have you thought about how your business will change when the technology underpinning or servicing your industry changes? It may be something as small as a change in coding or as large as a massive shift in what customers expect from you. If your business doesn’t evolve with technological changes, it’s all over.
Preparing for change requires a deep understanding of the culture you’re catering to. What does it value? What will people pay money for, and why? How is this culture different from previous generations, and how will it continue to change over time? Cultural tastes change over time. For example, many of us remember when families would go to the movie theater together. The rise of streaming films has severely dented the theater industry; more and more families are opting to stay home, give the kids a snack and put on Amazon Prime or Netflix. This sort of cultural change has left movie theaters scrambling to fill seats.
The economy is constantly fluctuating. There will be periods of recession and growth, no matter your industry. A willingness to prepare for change in the workplace when the economy shifts is vital to your success. How can you confidently pay your team to perform well while still making sure you protect the business from possible financial obstacles? How can you make your employees and customers feel certainty even in uncertain times?
These are the questions you need to ask yourself so you’re fully prepared to succeed in any kind of economy. For example, if you work at Netflix and the economy crashes, how will you continue to cater to clients looking to cut back on luxuries? Do you offer special low rates for new subscribers? Do you release a limited series to keep the attention of current viewers? Find strategies that can help you succeed no matter the economic climate.
As Tony often says, your customer’s life is your business’ life. Who is the target demographic for your product or service? If you’re Netflix, you’re most likely trying to reach adults in their 20-40s. How do you prepare for change based on your customers’ shifting habits and lives? Are you cultivating buyer personas for them? Are they watching more or less programming after they experience major life events like graduating college or having a child? Are you losing customers as they get married, because they now only need one account instead of two? Your customers’ lives are going to change, so your offerings should anticipate these developments.
Learning how to prepare for change also means anticipating how the lives of your employees are going to change. As a business owner, it’s your duty to take care of your team. Things happen in life. Babies are born, people get married. Some will battle health scares. Or maybe a key staff member unexpectedly leaves the company. No matter the event, you have to analyze the landscape and expect internal change. If you rely too closely on one employee, or neglect the needs of a department, you’re not going to be able to prepare for change.
Figure out how to balance the needs of the company while still realizing that your employees are people with their own lives happening behind the scenes. If you create an organizational culture that’s accommodating, your employees will want to stay on board even in the event of a major change.
As a leader, priming your workplace to prepare for change means ensuring your personal needs for growth are taken into consideration. Have you hit a plateau in your career? Do you feel like you need to go off on an exotic sojourn or take some time to yourself? Even if these things seem unrealistic with your current schedule, you have to plan for them.
There will come a day when you need to step back from work and hand the reins over to someone else. Anticipate this need ahead of time so the company can continue successfully operating during your absence.
While growing mindfully and in a scalable way is the easiest form of growth to handle, some businesses will experience unanticipated explosive growth. Others will not grow as they hoped and reach a point of stagnation. Preparing an organization for change means anticipating both possibilities. Growing too quickly can exhaust your resources and staff while stagnating can impact morale and negatively affect profits.
Though you may think you’re set with the array of products or services you offer, you never know when your team will come up with something new. If you aren’t prepared to shift your focus, identify new markets and access needed resources to incorporate these changes, you could lose out on vital growth opportunities. Every great company fosters an innovation culture, but you must have a plan for supporting these innovations to truly succeed.
A key way to prepare for change is to create a cross-functional team. All too often, employees aren’t cross-trained and end up siloed in one department or another; then, when someone leaves, everything is thrown into chaos in an effort to keep up. Staying ahead of the curve by cross-training allows team members to share duties and ensures that even if an employee leaves abruptly, there will be someone to step in until a replacement can be hired.
Develop your own leadership skills by creating a personal growth plan. This can trigger change at two points: as you design the plan and as you see how that matches up with the plan for your business. Do you feel fulfilled? As you start thinking about what you want and how you’re going to get it, you may realize your goals don’t align with those of your business.
Do you need to devise an exit strategy that will allow you to pursue other dreams? Is part of your vision teaching your children how to run your business so they can eventually take over? If so, when will you begin their training?
“People who succeed at the highest level are not lucky,” Tony says. “They’re doing something differently than everyone else.” The only certainty in business is that things will continue to change. If you learn how to prepare for change in the workplace, you will become better able to make the right decisions when needed.
Prepare yourself by becoming familiarized with these business triggers and watch as your company thrives. Attend Business Mastery and learn strategies to prepare for change and evolve so you can build a business that thrives – no matter the circumstances.