The best businesses use a combination of regular planning and reviewing to evolve. Hopefully, you’ve planned well for 2018 and are making headway. If not, it’s never too late to move. In the January/February issue of Archery Business (AB) magazine, I wrote about seven considerations as you do your best to grow your business in 2018. While written specifically for archery retailers, every suggestion is applicable to any business. Over the next few weeks, I’ll expand on each of the seven points presented in the article. They are:
• Keep Evolving.
• Know Your Customers.
• Identify Your Values.
• Take One Thing at a Time.
• Use Digital First (Unless your Physical Presence is Poor).
• Get Feedback.
• Get Out of Your Comfort Zone.
Let’s start with the first point; Keep Evolving.
If you’re not moving, you’re dead. So in reading this, celebrate being alive and well. Movement is either working for you (growth) or is working against you (decline). As a small business myself and consultant to other businesses, I understand how hard it is to keep up, especially now that we are globally connected and can find information and products instantly. I hope reading my business blog is a movement toward growth. As I wrote in AB magazine;
“Adapt or die. While most often seen in biology, adaptation is a normal part of human behavior. We naturally want to move to a “plus” or better state, always learning, adapting and improving. If you are not, the anxiety of watching others move while you stay behind can be enormous. Eventually, your lack of movement will be the death of your business. Doing nothing is a choice. It’s not a great choice, but it’s a choice. It’s also a mistake to believe that there is one “right” way and if you find it, you’ll be “done”.
Accept for yourself and your business that there isn’t a magical endpoint unless you intend to close your business soon. Also, change is a challenge for everyone. Every industry is facing changing demographics and advances in technology. Some are simply doing it better than others. Your typical customer of today will not be your typical customer of tomorrow in who they are or how they behave. Avoiding this reality will do you no good. But, it might give your competitors an advantage over you.
During my last few years with the Archery Trade Association, I saw the customer base change quickly with a fraction of retailers making necessary adjustments. The movie Hunger Games brought in an audience of teenage girls with little or no knowledge of archery. They were very different from most retailers’ typical customers: the middle-aged men familiar with the sport and looking for the next coolest gear for deer hunting. Those interested in this new market had a great deal to learn about their behavior, and then those retailers had to adjust accordingly. During the development of the Retail Growth Initiative, I spent almost a year explaining how the expectations of teenage girls (and often women) differed from those of the traditional archery customer. The retailers most successful in capturing this market and increasing profits continue to make adjustments to their facility, staff, lessons, product lines and digital presence. Retailers complaining that “it” wasn’t working were often under the false belief that offering beginner classes was all they’d need to do. They didn’t understand that change is constant.
Simple Adapting Process
Step 1: Assess.
Your first step toward change is to look inside and identify any problems preventing you from reaching your company goals. This should be an internal problem; one you can control. There are likely to be more but focus on the one that’s really nagging you. As a constant change agent, another problem will fall into place once you solve the first.
As a consultant, my biggest challenge is to get my name out there because I know I can get the work done. In assessing my movements over the past year to network, I noticed I hadn’t reached out enough and determined my fear of rejection plays a big role in preventing movement. Now that I’m clear, I can take action.
Step 2: Identify direction.
After assessing the problem, determine what options there are for fixing it. Which options ill all of the options move you from where you are now to where you want to be? What will it take to move from the current situation to the future, desired, situation? If there are several options, you may want to consider your first, one that provides a quick win. A bunch of little wins creates momentum and the courage to be bolder.
There are lots of ways to promote my company, including direct contact, attending professional meetings and conferences or reaching out via social media. I determined that my best direction was to attend more networking events and face my fear straight on. That’s not to say I won’t reach out via email, but I decided to make face-to-face contact my focus.
Step 3: Act to adjust.
This is the most critical step. The action is the only thing that matters. If you talk about what needs to be done and your actions don’t follow, you are wasting time and money. Avoidance is an action and rarely works. You are also setting a bad example for other employees, especially those under your supervision. Small acts can be just as important as big ones in the long-term health of your company.
I made a list of events I could attend in the next few months and outweighed the pros and cons of each, including costs. I decided on three main events, two that would involve travel and significant expense, but where I would reach the most people. The other was inexpensive but was likely to deliver less return. My travel was booked and I developed a strategy and desired outcomes for each event. I planned, attended and followed up; I acted.
Step 4: Celebrate success and accept failures.
If the action you took was successful, take a little time to celebrate. Do it publicly in the workplace; especially if a team was involved. If the action failed, accept it as an opportunity to learn. Make sure when you recognize failure that you don’t let it continue until it becomes catastrophic. If you are a leader, it’s especially important to talk about your own failures. It gives others the courage to try and fail too.
I won’t know the final outcome of each of the events I attended over the past few months for some time. And, a few of those leads may not come to fruition for months or even years. However, I am happy with the results. I celebrated putting myself out there and getting project leads. The results have been mostly exciting, with a few tolerable rejections. I reviewed my approaches to meetings and will make corrections where I felt I didn’t do well.
Step 5: Go back up to Step 1
Congratulations! You have made it to step 5! This is the point where another situation will surely arise and with this knowledge, you will be equipped to handle whatever that may be. Now that I’ve made more progress toward finding new clients, it’s time for me to make my next move. I’ll keep acting, testing and be evolving my business. It’s time for you to evolve too.
Not acting moves you further into the past: a parting story
For Christmas, I purchased a pair of diamond and silver earrings for my beautiful mother. While the jeweler was wrapping my gift, we started talking about business. I noticed he was using the old paper receipts and fairly old cash register. He said he knows he needs a Point of Sale (POS) system so he can better market to people, but he just can’t find the time to “get it done”. So, he hasn’t moved for over a year.
He is probably looking at the process as one giant step that will take days or weeks to complete. As a small business, I know he doesn’t have that luxury. However, there are many small steps he could take and can be often be done in as little as 10-15 minutes. For instance, send an email to the industry trade association asking for references for companies that offer POS. Call another jeweler in your network to find out what POS they are using and what they like and dislike about it. Contact one of your manufacturer sales representatives for advice. Set aside 15 minutes each day for five days and do some research online. Spend a few minutes brainstorming what you’d like a POS system to do for you. The most time-consuming task will probably be participating in online demonstrations of each potential software or cloud-based solution and those don’t usually last longer than an hour.
So, the first real step is to break the large task down into manageable pieces. In the words of Buddha, “You can only lose what you cling to.” Honor where you’ve been but take action to move your business forward. If you have questions or need someone to help assess your business, develop action steps and otherwise evolve toward a promising future, contact me here.