Imagine yourself standing on the deck of the largest ship in the world. As you look across the bow you realize the grandeur of this monstrosity as it travels through the water. The ship was built by some of the best craftsmen that were led by a world-class team of designers. The captain sat at the helm with decades of experience. The ocean before you now seems less significant. You think, “Nothing can stop me! I’m King of the World!!” Sounds like a scene out of Titanic, right?
What if you changed the plot? Let’s say for a moment the ships name is Kodak and it’s 1975. At this time you are THE leader in film technology. You own the market. Each year you spend millions on R&D. As you look out across the bow of your ship you seem unstoppable. Then an engineer comes up from below deck and shows you a new product he’s been working on. Instead of taking pictures with the standard rolls of silver coated plastic, it places the image on a memory chip eliminating the need for film. What do you do? Like the Titanic, this story has been written multiple times over. Also, like the Titanic, it’s a story of what happens when we become complacent.
The Dow hit 22,000 yesterday for the first time. This is a good sign for many that the economy is chugging right along. The executives I know are happy. Their businesses are growing and in some cases breaking all sales records. Profits haven’t been this high in some time; all the more reason to prepare.
Good times can be an enemy of business. We can get lulled into a sense of comfort when times are good. That’s not to say we aren’t facing challenges. What executives struggle with right now is finding enough people to keep up with the demands their customers are placing on them. Businesses are still finding themselves doing more with less. Staff loyalty is still low and lack of engagement is still high. Many accept this as the new norm. While it is still fair sailing ahead there are still icebergs out there. How well is your ship equipped to handle the challenges you face today as well as the ones you will face tomorrow?
Opportunities abound if you follow the rule of Scouting.
Remember the old saying ‘Be Prepared’? That is just as true now as it was in the past. Money and success can hide a lot of issues. This is why it is important to always be improving. The future has yet to be written, but the past can tell us a lot. There are ways you can position yourself, and your business, to grow in the face of uncertainty and that is only if you act now. Here are some actions you can take to future-proof your business:
- Think Globally, Not Locally – Expand your horizons. Technology has allowed us to expand our sales area. The bad news is businesses can come into your market and sell to your clients. The good news is you can do the same! Use technology to grow your sales in other parts of the country or elsewhere in the world.
- Invest In Your Talent – During the Great Recession businesses all but stopped investing in their people. When the economy bounced many failed to develop talent because, “they are just going to leave anyway”. Talk to a young professional and many will tell you they aren’t loyal because their boss won’t invest in them so they have to go elsewhere. Commit to your people so they will commit to you.
- Automate – Technology can allow a person to do more with less if you learn how to use it properly. Employees and business owners alike complain there isn’t enough time in the day to get things done. They are still doing more with less but for different reasons. Figure out what you can automate and do it. Take mundane tasks out of the equation so your team can focus on the bigger picture.
- Build a Great Culture – Become the place people want to work. You will minimize turnover and increase engagement. Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t mean installing a Kegorator in the breakroom. Every company is unique. Find where that uniqueness can shine through and bring in people who value it.
- Bring Value – So many businesses focus on WHAT they sell instead of how they add value. In a world where commodity is king you will lose every time if your focus is on price and cutting costs. Give your customers more! Find out what matters to them and raise the bar on value. Remember, increasing value doesn’t always mean increasing cost.
- Lead Change – Change is the only constant. Every industry experiences it. Will you be leading that change or merely following it? What can you do to set yourself apart? Are you following trends? If so, how can you lead them?
- Mix Things Up – Complacency kills. If you lie down on a deserted highway, eventually, someone will come along and run you over. How will you get your team and your leadership to make change part of your company lifestyle instead of just an event that happens only when it is forced upon you?
- Innovate Instead of Placate – It’s part of leading change. Be the leader. Try things that will change your market and open new opportunities. Exercise the creativity muscle. Are there new ways to apply your products or services? Is there something that your industry is demanding but your competitors aren’t listening? Taking from the Steve Jobs playbook, how can you put your own dent in the universe?