If you are facing a crossroads, this could be a great opportunity to create a better version of your business. This episode provides 9 ways you can adapt to market changes, including how to evaluate both emotions and useful data for making risk intelligent decisions.
04/30/2020 – 21 minutes 6 seconds
Highlights and Take-Aways
- In two childhood experiences, I learned that I could “give up” before doing something difficult.
- There’s a point where you need to push beyond comfort; not to the point of pain, but where the muscles burn. Your body will get stronger; lungs will fill with more air. Muscles will re-form to grow and get stronger. Exercise pushes you beyond your current state to make you better.
- Business owners have the opportunity to make your business a better version of what it was before.
Ways to Adapt Your Business
1. Adjust Your Expectations
- The way your business is “supposed” to run
- Processes in a certain order
- Types of employees you depend on
- Easy-to-serve customers
When this is no longer the case, due to recent events, what is the new reality? And how will your expectations need to change?
Changing one’s expectations means being realistic about what is possible. It means measuring results and choosing to make risk intelligent decisions. And it means comparing those results to what you were hoping to achieve.
2. Set SMART and CLEAR Goals
- Specific (not a massive goal, but one particular thing)
- Measurable (see progress as you move toward it)
- Achievable (know it is possible to do it)
- Results Oriented (based on outcomes)
- Time Bound (you’ve picked a timetable to achieve the goal)
- Collaborative (working with other people)
- Limited (restricted to a narrow focus vs. a broad one)
- Engaging (goals should be fun and exciting! They should pull you in)
- Actionable (you need to want to get up and achieve it)
- Refinable (continue to adjust the goal as circumstances change)
3. See a Long-Range View
It’s important for every business owner to look ahead at what could happen in the future.
- Macro Changes are events seen from a zoomed-out point of view, rather than day-to-day problems.
- Daily problems (the pestering questions and crises) demand our attention, but they take focus away from the big picture.
- Spend time every week asking how market shifts, industry, and customer base are affecting your business proposition.
- Customers’ purchasing decisions are changing, and this will continue to morph depending on circumstances, financial impacts, and social impact.
- Business owners will need to adjust to keep up with market shifts.
Unfortunately, the fallout from COVID-19 may not be the only disaster your business will face. There will be other situations that will cause you to struggle. Company owners will face significant challenges and problems that you will need to see ahead of time, in order to adjust when they happen.
4. Identify New Trends
- How are customers behaving differently?
- Where are they spending time and money?
- What do they expect from services and products?
- Which resources do you depend on? Has your access to raw materials or products changed?
All of these could provide opportunities for you to “see around the bend” and make adjustments before your competitors.
5. Find a Niche Specialization
Although picking a niche specialization for your marketing is important, it’s not the only part of the strategic picture.
Finding a specific area of expertise that is different from everyone else in your field can take years to develop. It could appear like a lightning bolt (“Hey! That’s the one thing that makes me different!”); but it could take a lot of trial and error.
Find out what makes you different from other service providers and business owners in your field:
- Your background
Why would this help you as you’re looking to adapt?
Instead of trying to offer every option to lots of types of buyers (which is not very effective), why not offer services or products to a certain type of buyer… or focus on solving one particular problem?
6. See the Good
Analyzing what’s going wrong in businesses is important (it is, after all, the title of this podcast!) But there are also benefits to noticing the positive things that are happening.
- Listen to positive changes
- Feedback from happy customers
- Solving problems and improve their outcomes
- Understand why your services or products are helping
This is especially helpful when you’re having a really bad week. You can leverage what you’re doing well and “turn up the volume” on what is working, and spend less effort on actions that aren’t leading to good results.
7. Be Honest
“Should I quit?”
This is a crucial question to ask. Is it time to stop trying?
“No, you should keep pushing! Go beyond what you’re capable of!”
This could be the case; maybe you’re not pushing yourself, and you should keep going. But are there signs that your business has reached an end?
- Go back into the workforce
- Partner with someone else
- Work as an independent contractor vs. an owner
- Take a break!
For folks who decided to end their company, they feel relief once they stop running on the hamster wheel. Once they let go of others’ expectations and the pressure to keep forcing circumstances that are not producing what they wanted, they realize “I don’t have to keep trying!”
Quitting is not a sign of moral failure. It is possible to stop while you’re still ahead, as long as you can measure why you’re doing it.
Don’t stop just because it’s uncomfortable. But if you see signs of problems that you won’t be able to overcome, then quitting is more risk intelligent than continuing.
The Future Test
Imagine this: If nothing changes in your business, and things continue the way they are going right now, what will it look like in 5 years?
This picture might make you feel uncomfortable:
- More debt
- Less control
- Burned out
- …whatever images come to your mind could be a sign that things aren’t working well.
Adapt and make adjustments. Dig deep to keep going, and make different decisions than you’ve done in the past.
Quit. Cut your losses, and realize this is not worth doing anymore.
There’s nothing wrong with either decision.
8. Measure Profit
Are your business decisions resulting in higher profit margins?
Many of our decisions are made emotionally. We put a lot of ourselves into our business: perceptions, personality traits, beliefs about the world. All of this comes out, especially in the company culture. The way you train your staff or independent contractors, and the processes you use to deliver services or products to customers, reflect where you place value. What you care about.
Something that does not change is profit. By measuring how each of your business actions results in profit margins (extra that’s left over after spending overhead) is a good indicator of whether the decision is good or not.
In deciding how to adapt your business, consider where you’ll get the highest profit margins. Not just what you hope will make money, but what you can actually measure.
9. Measure Success
This is related to #1, Adjusting Expectations and #2, Setting Goals.
What do you imagine of your own success?
Whether you are a business owner, professional, an independent contractor, or if you want to launch a business… what do you want that to look like?
How do you see yourself in the future? Do you want to leave a legacy? Have more financial security? To be generous and give your money to a worthy cause? To be well known? To have your ideas be and efforts be appreciated?
There are many ways to look at the emotion behind goal-setting. How do you measure that? We can look at the amount of change (quantitative), as well as the emotion and experience they bring (qualitative).
As you review how to adapt, ask what you would like to see in the success of your business – not just focusing on the daily activities, generating more sales, and offering new things for people to buy, but also how YOU want to be perceived as successful, and what you believe is important.
I hope this gives you some ideas for how to make adjustments in your business. Asking the deeper questions will help you to see around corners and peer into what could happen in the future.
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Grace LaConte is a business consultant, writer, workplace equity strategist, and the founder of LaConte Consulting. Her risk management tools are used around the globe, and she has successfully reversed toxic work environments for clients in the healthcare and non-profit fields. Grace specializes in lactation law compliance & policy development, reducing staff turnover after maternity leave, and creating a participatory work culture.