It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. – Charles Darwin
Years ago, I worked for an attorney who would often say that we (meaning our business) needed to be more like the coyote. He recognized that the industry was changing. Gone were the days of being able to command high hourly rates simply because we were a well-established, reputable firm. Competition was becoming fierce and the clients we worked for (primarily insurance companies) had found out they had the strategic advantage when it came to the negotiation of the rates they were paying.
Every business owner needs to be able to adapt to the changes in the economy and, as fortune would have it, entrepreneurs are GIFTED with that trait – they are adaptable to change.
If you are getting your rabbits from the vacant lot that has always been there and someone puts up a condo, you are going to have to adapt. Like the coyote, your ability to both recognize the change and to adapt quickly will be a source of your long-term success.
While a new condo in the neighborhood is a bit hard to miss things in your world may be a bit more subtle. For the business owner, it is necessary that you recognize there is a change occurring. At first, this might be just a “noticing” and quite subjective but ultimately you should be able to measure for it. When I was working in the law firm, one of the things I noticed was that instead of the daily stack of mail being 2 feet tall (no exaggeration), it had become a mere 6 inches. This was a significant change when you recognize that every letter coming in is something that will need a response (which in a law office is a billable event).
An entrepreneur has multiple ways of measuring for change, i.e., how many new customers are you getting each month versus how many lost; increases or decreases in revenue (expenses typically are more predictable from month to month and ordinarily do not make a good measuring stick); and there may be others depending on the business. If you are just starting a business, be sure to put in place a standard of measurement and record keeping practices that allow you to look at the relevant data over more than a monthly period. If you are already in business, and don’t have such a system, implement one immediately. I find that using an 18 month report gives the entrepreneur the best information for evaluation. Slow months and other trends become more readily visible.
Okay now what? If the news is good – Adapt! Posture for growth. If the news is less than you had hoped for – Adapt! If you see a loss in revenue look at your sales. Are the number of sales down? Is the average purchase amount less than in the past? Ask the question: Why? If you are losing customers, beef up your marketing and be sure to look at customer care as that can be a big source of problems. Add new products or services or even innovative uses for existing products. If you are gaining a lot of new customers, it may be time to hire some help. Good or not so good, you will need to adapt.
Some of you reading this may go, “But that is so simple” and while it can be, if you are not measuring what sources your success you may not see the change until it is too late. Even the resilient coyote if he were to wait too long before doing something different will starve no matter how good he is at adapting.
Are you measuring the sources of success for your business? Whether it is by watching your money or measuring customers (and in a perfect world it will be both), you must be continually measuring in order to have the time you need to respond to the change and to adapt.
If you are not using a framework for success why would you expect to succeed? If at any time you would like to take your business to the next level, to build an infrastructure that will help your business thrive, to have a business and a life you love, carve out some time to make it happen. I would welcome the opportunity to help you.