Is your organization on auto-pilot? Does your company do the same thing year after year? Does your company announce new products at the same time, attend the same trade shows, use the same marketing tactics, engage with customers the same way you did in 1998, or use the same software that you bought from the 1990s? If your answer is yes to these questions, you need to wake up!
The Changing World
The world is changing – yes, it has always been changing, but it is moving a hell of a lot faster than previously. New competitors, changing demographics, advancing technologies, and socio-economic issues are creating a world of volatility, uncertainty, chaos, and ambiguity. If this sounds frightening, relax, this should excite you at all the possible opportunities you can take advantage of.
If you are living in a groundhog day, doing the same thing day after day, your business performance is probably doing the same thing. If you are lucky, business performance is flat. Worse, it is slowly shrinking. What it is probably not doing is growing. Is this acceptable? Are you happy?
If your competitors are operating the same way, then there is no need to change, right? Wrong! Why should you be worried? Well, someone is probably watching your industry. Someone with the resources, energy, and creativity to come in and disrupt your nice, quiet, uneventful life. Where will this threat come from? Anywhere. It could be from Asia, South America, or some small country no one has heard of. Or across the street. It could be right in front of you, but you are blind.
Too many organizations (and individuals) are complacent and stick with the status quo. If something worked 5 years ago, then just keep doing it. If your margins are 5%, why should you work hard to get 7%? If your customers keep buying your products, why should you be worried? Well, business should excite you and your teams. You should come to work every day energized to do new things. You should get pumped-up thinking about how you can try a new marketing tactic to increase sales.
Worse case, if you cannot get excited about work; then get paranoid. Get paranoid that someone is going to put you out of business, or take your job. Get paranoid that your Baby Boomer customers are quickly aging and Gen Y could care less about your products (I am talking to you, U.S. motorcycle industry). How about being excited and paranoid?
Business should be an exciting, challenging and fun “game”. You typically spend more time at work than with your family. If you are spending all this time doing the same old thing, you are wasting your life. And yes, cliché time, you only live once and it is damn short. You might as well have fun and do cool things. Sure, not everyone has this mindset, but your organization needs to build a “team” of proactive, creative, disrupters. And yes, those “bumps on a log” that have done the same thing for 25 years, can be changed. People like to contribute. Even these people can be engaged to help change the business.
How about every day working to win? How about enjoying the challenge of beating your competitors? How about the fun of your competitors fearing you? How about your competitors constantly reacting and playing catch-up? How about your customers excited about every new product announcement? Now that is fun. That is a fulfilling life. That is how you grow your business.
Focus on Winning
Think of business as a game that you want to win, not survive. Come into work every day with new ideas, work with team members to create something new, or develop a new way to outsmart your competition. Listen, most business is about competing and winning. If you are not playing to win, then why get on the field? Why waste your time doing the same thing? How about enjoying your work by constantly figuring out a way to improve what you do (or offer) and improve your customer’s experience.
Too many people are defeated from hearing “no” or “but” that they finally gave up. Too many people use excuses. If this is you, change. If your leaders are stuck in the past, have fun. Keep developing new things to drive them crazy. Push their buttons. Conduct experiments and tests to prove new ideas produce increased value. Demonstrate how your new idea can position the organization ahead of the competition and how your customers will love it.
These mindsets and actions are not just for sales and marketing. Any department can improve. If you are in accounting, how can you improve your processes to make employee and supplier lives’ easier? Are there forms that are a nightmare to complete? Well, change them. Is the expense reporting procedures archaic? Change them. Talk to employees who interact with your department and use your processes. Understand what they like and hate. Then, change it and see their reactions? Then, show your boss and co-workers. Start a movement within your group for continuous improvement.
An organization that focuses on continuous improvements will keep growing and be a great place to work. Engaged employees who are excited and creative are contagious. New ideas and experimentation will lead to long-term growth through developing new products, processes, and gaining new customers.
This does not have to cost a lot, it just takes work and time – think of all the time you waste and how it can be put to good use. If leaders won’t do it or champion the change, then employees need to take charge. Don’t wait around for a leader who is stuck in the past or just counting his days. Everyone within an organization has the right to push for change and improve the business.
What can be more fun than driving people crazy (those stuck in the past) as you develop new, creative ways to improve the business and your skill set? Now get up, start learning from your “customers”, build your skill set, and change the world. It is not that hard. You just need to stay positive and keep moving forward.
It is time to win! It is time to think and act. In the words of the Lean Startup community, it’s time to build, learn, and measure. So stop watching the clock, waiting for the weekend, or accepting a boring existence. Remember, every one of us has the power to change the world, even if your world is not very big.