Working ‘on’ your business is one of those things that we know we should all be doing, but it’s so easy to put off in the day-to-day hubbub of running your business: the phone keeps ringing, someone doesn't turn up to work or a new job comes in.
Each of these takes (necessary) priority over the big picture projects - after all - keeping the business running and paying the bills have to come first. Unfortunately, with each little procrastination, you become more and more detached from the big picture, and over time you become the metaphorical ostrich with your head buried in the sand. Not that you did it on purpose, just that it your head became buried, slowly over time without realising it.
Of course not knowing what is going on around you can have serious consequences for your business. It’s easy to list businesses that weren’t paying attention to the market, and are now terminal, or already in the graveyard. The internet has killed countless businesses, including travel agencies, newspapers, bookshops, music retailers and video retailers, just to mention a few. Yellow Pages not so long ago was the major force, only to be swept aside by Google - affecting them and the businesses that depended on it. Right now the taxi industry is scrambling to catch up to Uber, asleep at the wheel as it takes over their market share. I have seen businesses decimated by changes to government legislation, local council laws, funding schemes and even shopping centre floor plans.
Hindsight is 20:20 and it’s easy to see the changes coming from afar, when looking backwards. Deep down we are relieved to hear these stories and know it’s not our business, but complacency is not an option and it can happen to any business. There are many things to juggle as a small business owner, that is for sure, but the market is unforgiving and won’t wait for you to catch up; it’s a case of business owner beware.
If you are paying attention then you can change lanes early enough you can keep on top and build new opportunities, change products, markets and embrace new technologies. Without doubt, changes can create new opportunity which can be bigger and better than before. I have seen 2 medium size businesses change their business models and, over a 12 month period, overcome crushing price pressures and changes to government funding through dedicated programs that changed the directions of both businesses and maintained their place in the market as leaders.
Is it possible to be an Old Tonto of business, to listen to the ground and hear what is coming? Is it possible to be a small business soothsayer? Can you sniff change in the air and change course before you steer your business into the rocks? This is an essential skill of the outstanding business owner to watch your territory, see dangers and change course. The market can even be giving you messages about where you should go. Here’s what to do.
Keep an eye on what is going on.
Become a selective consumer of information that affects your industry. There are no shortage of blogs, magazines, newsletters, conferences and opinions on every industry and the economy generally. I can hear you saying you don’t have time, so find a way to listen to a podcast on the way to work or read the business section over lunch. Make time for this.
Other industries may have experienced major disruption before you. Preempt the same change in yours. Is there an Uber coming for your industry?
Watch for clues.
Your clients could be asking for a new product or telling your about a service that is emerging; your competitors or businesses from other industries might be doing something in a way you could adopt.
If you can’t beat them, join them.
Can you leverage the new order for your own business? I have stayed at hotels that I booked through AirBNB. Taxis are looking at ways to get customers through Uber.
Keep it all in perspective. There are a lot of doomsayers in the media who make a living from scaring us, so digest all of the information you get and assess risks thoroughly as they affect you.
Start changing lanes early; reassess your strategy and pivot your business capture new markets. Get professional help if you are stuck.
What’s is the next big disruption we can see in the business crystal ball? Surely any protected, well paid industries that have not yet been threatened by technology will be next. Without doubt there will be some storm clouds sooner or later. In reality, it is a myth that ostriches bury their head in the sand to hide from predators, but what they can do well is to outrun their predators. That is the strategy you should be adopting.