What Got You Here, Won't Get You There. Change Drives Business Growth.
While all entrepreneurs want to grow their business, growth is not inevitable. And just as often, elusive. What got you here, won’t get you there. Because you were successful in getting to a particular level of revenue or profit for one year doesn’t mean that beating it (or even meeting it) the following year is a given. To do better, you need to perform better. That delta is change. Not just any change, but change that is driven by the desire to continually improve.
Kaizen came to be after World War II
Kaizen, which means “change for the better” in Japanese, first surfaced during efforts to rebuild Japan after World War II. At the time, several U.S. business consultants collaborated with Japanese companies to improve manufacturing. The collaboration resulted in the development of several new management techniques, one of which was Kaizen.
Unlike many business practices, Kaizen’s strength comes from requiring all workers—from the CEO to the shop floor assistant—to participate by making suggestions to improve the business. And the philosophy works in, virtually, any business whether you’re manufacturing widgets, delivering online e-learning or providing software that schedules and tracks shipments.
Without “change for the better,” in the form of continuous improvement, there can be no growth. That’s what growth is all about. Change. And it’s not just growth for growth’s sake, but growth that makes your company better!
And here are five critical ways to ensure that you can sustain your growth through change:
Adjust with and to Your Market.Basically, stay on top of your market. Know how it’s changing and at what speed; react and adjust, accordingly. Different markets turn at different rates. Some like technology are changing on an almost daily basis. Others, like the public sector change at glacier-like speed. But not only know the “pace” of change in your market but how the customers’ expectations or requirements and the competitive responses to that are changing.
Is there a new application or a new feature that customers are asking for that maybe you need to develop? Are there new entrants that are forcing change with different pricing or packaging? Are there competitors who are exiting? Is there any opportunity to grab their customers? How will you capitalize or respond?
Know What’s Worked, But Never Be Satisfied.Never stop analyzing how you can do things better. Continually review critical processes, especially the ones that seem to be working. Change the things that aren’t as soon as you feel them going sideways. Don’t let them degrade into problems. Don’t just listen, but solicit suggestions from employees, customers, and suppliers. Keep things fresh. Mix it up, periodically. Build on, don’t just try to replicate prior success.
Continue to Find New Ways to Get and Keep Customers.The challenge to not only get new but to keep existing customers is ongoing. And when you are in growth mode, it is, ultimately, “what drives the bus!” The more customers you have, the greater the opportunity for growth. But much easier said than done. It’s about building relationships as opposed to just getting more customers or selling more products.
Good relationships are always “give and take.” It provides you a “window” into your market. This interaction is what helps you develop new ways to better service and grow existing customers, and, in turn, develop better and deeper relationships with new customers.
Only Bring On Teammates Who Make Everybody Better.In sports, you always want teammates who, not just because of talent, but because of the way they play, they raise the level of play of everybody else on the team. You want the same thing when you bring in new employees. But, you have to work at it. Of course, you expect them to meet the requirements for the job and then some, but you have to look beyond.
No matter their role, you want folks who make their presence felt. They should add to the culture you’re trying to build. Hire with the belief and the feeling that, no matter the role, they will make an impact and make the people around them better. Whether that’s through work ethic (references will tell you about that) or personality that makes people gravitate to them, hire to help the company and the culture grow.
You Have to Grow for Your Business to Grow.You can’t find new ways to grow your business through “change for the better,” if you are not ready and willing to do the same for yourself, both professionally and personally. Professionally, you have to find the time and take the time to make yourself better, as a leader in your company, and as a knowledgeable participant in your market.
That means, periodically, reading everything you can get your hands on regarding small business and entrepreneurship like articles from Inc., Entrepreneur, or Forbes Entrepreneurs, or blog posts like mine.
Or, attend a trade seminar or workshop to learn what’s happening in your vertical market. Or, maybe even take a course or two at a local college that either gives you exposure to other thinking or background in a subject matter that you were never formally trained in (e.g. sales, marketing, etc.).
On a personal level, find an outlet outside of your work that stimulates you either mentally or physically, both if you can. Take a block of time away from work to read non-work-related stuff or one of physical activity. Try to do something every day. And, finally, stay involved with your family and significant other. You need them as much as they need you.
You can get from here to there, but not without change. Growth doesn’t come naturally, but is a by-product of effective change for the better. Go find the changes you need to grow.
"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things. He's been there. May success be with you!
Has your growth not happened as you wanted or expected? Maybe you haven’t “changed for the better.” Please share your thoughts in your comments. It can help another entrepreneur or small business owner.
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