What if your industry started today?

In a world where competition can come from just about anywhere, what’s the one thing business operators can do to ensure they not only survive but even prosper?

Your humble blogger is in no position to claim to have that valuable answer. However, what I can do is provide a consistent theme that echoes throughout the words of the today’s business leaders.

And that theme is this:

Plan your business as if your industry started today.

In other words, throw out your culture of ‘the way we’ve always worked here’ and the ‘tried and true methods’ because they are going the way of the dodo faster than you can say ‘Kodak’.

The really quick or the dead

Because digital and other technology is changing the way business is being conducted so quickly, your business may be pulled from under your feet before you know it – as so many more seasoned, resourced and successful businesses than yours and mine have sadly found out.

There’s a lot to be said for this approach. The most obvious one is few industries resemble their former self of 10, let alone 20 or 30, years, which is when many of today’s businesses were operating.

Yet I’m often astounded by the number of businesses that continue practices from at least this far back, such as that frequent subject of this blog – the local meat wholesaler that doesn’t possess a computer after more than 30 years of becoming the standard productivity tool of smaller business.

Or the sales manager who refuses to open his lead-infested email because he’s convinced that if customers want to do business with him, they’ll phone him.

But the writing is on the wall for this kind of complacency.

Are we still relevant?

It’s now critical that on a regular basis, business operators need to have the open mindedness and courage to forensically examine how their business offering stacks up in the market and how it is promoted, created, delivered and supported to its customer.

Chances are the methods being employed are completely superseded by not only new technology but completely different consumer behaviour when it comes to purchasing your product.

Appy days

Take apps for example. Every day, a new app is being released that fundamentally changes the way we go about our daily lives, such as getting to our destinations, finding a destination to spend our holidays or finding things to do when you get there.

There really are few consumer activities that haven’t been changed forever by apps. But how many business operators have taken a serious look at how apps might either assist or threaten their business?

Finding the time and space

The one problem with embracing this ‘disrupt ourselves before they do’ approach is finding time to step away from your day-to-day work life to objectively look at how your business operates with a view to fundamentally altering its direction to something far more sustainable.

It can really be challenging to find the time and right people to be able to divorce yourself from your business in this way and to interrogate procedures and practices that till now may have been the very thing that has made your business successful.

But there really is no point flogging a horse that is well past its hay day.

Up business periscope

While that practice may have held you in good stead for many years, its important to not only continue to measure its effectiveness, but identify how competitors, or even those from similar industries, are going about their business today, with a view to identifying, planning and trying new ways of any of sourcing, producing, marketing, selling, distributing or supporting your product.

This will be no means an easy thing to do. Change is rarely popular within organisations, particularly when the practices you are considering changing have worked so well in the past.

But such diligence around this challenge ensures that unlike so many, you will not only be prepared for a business disruption, you might even be causing it – and keeping yourself in business in the process.

As the headline suggests, it’s really healthy to find the time to imagine that your industry was starting today, without yesterday’s technological, procedural and cultural baggage.

It’s with this kind of thinking that you can not only identify potential threats to your business but even beat your competitors to the punch they didn’t see coming.

In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond. 

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