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The Power of Strategic Change
“How can you stay so upbeat about your business?”
I was asked this question a lot as the world struggled through the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m a naturally upbeat, positive person, and that optimism seemed to annoy some folks who thought I was ignoring the hardships going on. That wasn’t the case. COVID-19 is very serious and we quickly took the appropriate steps to protect our clients, our staff, and their families. But while the virus was scary, I wasn’t worried about it hurting my firm, even as businesses began to fold around us. The truth is that we’ve been blindsided by the unexpected before.
How to Survive Being Blindsided
When the internet came around, I was slow to embrace it. Why would I need to market on the World Wide Web? Back then, there were no Yellow Pages in town that didn’t have our firm on the back cover or the spine. That’s where most of our business came from, so there was no reason for us to change. Boy, I tell ya, in a couple of years when all these Yellow Pages had started going under, I was way behind on the internet, and my business suffered.
Ever since I made that huge mistake by ignoring the internet, anytime something new comes in, I know I need to be the first to start transforming my business. When COVID-19 first came in, many people claimed that this had never happened to us before. But the reality is that we get blindsided by things all the time. It just doesn’t usually come in the form of a virus or effect every industry at once. A good example of this is how Blockbuster video got blindsided by Netflix.
Did Blockbuster go out of business because of Netflix?
No. They went out of business because they refused to change. In fact, Blockbuster had the opportunity to buy Netflix early on, and they refused. They had the same mentality I had when the internet came around: “We don’t need to change.” We’re doing great! Well, fast-forward to the present, and there’s just one Blockbuster left open in the world. Meanwhile, Netflix saw a huge spike in new subscribers during the pandemic.
We’re seeing the same thing happen to local coffee shops when a Starbucks comes to town and with taxi cabs faced with Uber. These businesses will blame the “new thing” for being the reason they folded, but the real reason is that they refuse to change their ways. Why would someone get in a dirty, old taxi cab with a grumpy driver when they could get into a new car with a friendly driver who provides great customer services and bottled water? Old coffee shops stubbornly keep their 15-year-old couches, even though Starbucks makes their shops inviting by bringing in new furniture all the time. Something new will always come along to blindside you, and refusing to change with the times is the biggest reason businesses go under.
Understand that when I say companies need to be willing to change, I’m not suggesting they abandon what makes them unique and imitate the competition. Change needs to be strategic and fall in line with your company’s end goals. That’s why it’s so important to know what those goals are in the first place. One of my life coaches does an exercise to highlight why it’s so important to have a clear vision of where you want to go.
Imagine that you’re in a large auditorium and someone tells you to walk in a straight line to the middle back door. You start walking and then they put a chair in front of you. What do you do? You go around the chair, right? Or maybe you climb over it. Whatever you choose, you change course but remain on your path to the door. But what if you’re told to just walk in a line, with no direction or goal in mind? If there’s a chair in your path, you might stop or even change direction entirely and walk somewhere else. You never had a clear vision of where you were going, so why work to get around the obstacle? Your destination is very important. Embracing change can be difficult, but it’s far easier to do successfully when you keep your eye on your ultimate goals.
Our firm wasn’t set up to work remotely, but as soon as the virus came along and made remote work a necessity, within a week, everyone had a laptop, we put everything in the cloud, and we made sure everyone could do their job from home. We focused on clearing up cases quickly for our clients and using the unexpected pause created by the virus to reinvent ourselves. It wasn’t time to hunker down and go into survival mode. Instead, I was looking at processes that could be improved, what technologies could be upgraded, and which systems needed to be revamped. I even took a page from the Starbucks playbook and looked into getting new furniture for the lobby.
We live in a different world now
A lot of people think things have changed forever. I don’t know if everything has changed forever, but it’s clear that things are changing. We need to strategically change with them, or we’ll go by the wayside.