When was the last time you looked at your business with fresh eyes? Maybe it is ready for some significant changes? How would you know? How would you make them happen? As we often tell our clients "If you want to change, have a crisis or create one." If not, very little gets done. But the pressures to change are accelerating. People really hate to change. What to do?
At SAMC, we work with businesses, large and small, which have reached a critical stall point. Maybe you are experiencing the same challenges? It is usually a weird feeling. The growth that came so fast at the beginning has slowed down. You feel like you zoomed forward like a speed demon only to hit a wall. Everything seems stable but stuck.
Whether you have a digital marketing firm, a fundraising agency, a new online dress company, a high tech startup, a successful accounting firm, or whatever your passion and purpose that has turned into a business, it might be time for a re-do, or even a do-over! At the very least, I bet the changes are coming so fast that it is time to step out and see your company as if you were dropped on a foreign island, like an anthropologist.
How do you know when is the right time to change?
If you feel you are ready for a change, the first question you want to ask is, how do you know if it is time to re-think your business model, strategy, product, service or solution? Here are three areas you need to review:
1. How are your critical indicators doing? Look at everything from the top-line sales and profit margins to the cost of goods and the productivity of your staff. How's your customer satisfaction, loyalty and return business? Is there growth in your website visits and e-commerce sales? What parameters are you watching? Can you hear what the data is telling you?
2. Second, where are you in the classic “The Five Stages of Small Business Growth”? Written by Neil C. Churchill and Virginia L. Lewis and published in the Harvard Business Review in 1983, it is still an excellent model for small businesses to use as they reflect on their journey from idea to startup to vibrant, profitable business. Are you ready for the next growth spurt into new markets?
3. Third, how about you...the founder, owner and grower? Are you more of a discoverer who likes the startup phase of a business but hates to run things? Have you kept growing into the new jobs that emerge with the increased complexity of the company? Are you ready for a change?
What is that ONE big thing that is dragging down the business, and you?
Begin by digging deep into the weeds. What is the one big problem with your business, or with you, that you need to solve?
Once you have come to terms with the challenges before you, you need to recognize that people hate to change. You do as well. You are going to need to face four significant hurdles that you and your staff will need to overcome if you really want to change the trajectory of your business.
The four obstacles heading your way are:
- Cognitive: What do you mean?
- Motivational: I'm not motivated!
- Resource: We don’t have any resources to give you.
- Political: The power plays are waiting for you.
But how do you change your company—and yourself? I suggest that you:
1. Try not to do it alone. Assemble your team and be sure to engage those recalcitrant nay-sayers in the change process. It is your employees that are going to have to envision new ways to do things. Involve them in the design before you try and do anything.
2. Use storytelling as a tool. Storytelling is a perfect way to get people to realize what is going on right now and why it is not working. It also helps define what you need to change. How can you deliver better services, products, profits or customer loyalty? Visualization is essential. It is how our brains take the facts and turn them into a future reality.
3. Create a pilot or testing phase. These become your small wins. Get your team to tell you how they will test the new ways and evaluate the results. Small wins get them started without creating havoc. Make sure you have clear due dates and deliverables with accountability.
4. Say goodbye to the past. As you begin to roll out significant changes, don’t forget to hold a “funeral” for the things you are never going to do again. Recognize the people who are essential in those prior practices. Literally say goodbye so they can all move forward.
While we know change is literally pain, you can tackle the daily challenges threatening your business.
Would you like to learn more? Check out these blogs and podcasts. They are all designed to help you "see, feel and think" in new ways.
- Blog: Change: It's Scary But Take the Plunge Anyway
- Blog: How to Help Your Team Stop Mourning the Old and Love the New
- Podcast: Ask Andi—Want Your Company To Not Just Survive But Thrive? Hire Anthropologists.
Time to tackle the pain of change?
Give us a call. We help companies and individuals turn their reluctance to change into great success stories. Check out 7 real-life case studies in my book: "On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights."
From Observation to Innovation,
Andi Simon, Ph.D.
Corporate Anthropologist | President
Simon Associates Management Consultants
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