Is your business model future-proof?

A few years ago the organisers of the Print Music Retailers Association kindly asked me up to the Gold Coast to be the keynote speaker at their annual conference.

I love the opportunity to help organisations understand the digital world so as to embrace before it strangles them to what might be a surprisingly swift and painful death.

And admittedly the sun and surf of the Gold Coast wasn’t a bad distraction from another cold Melbourne winter either.

But if ever there was an industry that the web wasn’t going to alter radically and fundamentally, their core product, sheet music, stood at or at least near the very top.

Given that it is essentially an amalgam of two of the most disrupted industries of the last decade, books and music, it was fairly obvious that anyone in this industry really needed to be on top of the latest technological developments to be able to work out how they were going to tackle it.

Or if they should even bother?

What if your business opened today?

So after I’d showcased a few developments that were already impacting the industry, the next half hour was spent planning and designing their businesses as if it started today.

Not 30 years ago when you had no option but to go to a sheet music store to purchase it. Not even 10 years ago when the first digitised versions were being sold online, but today, when several technological developments were making the old printed versions look as antiquated as the vinyl it used to end up on (though amazingly has found a new niche among purists and collectors).

The resulting findings made very interesting listening.

New and different business models

Some delegate breakout groups decided to open online-only stores selling essentially ‘e’ sheet music.  Others decided to create apps to replace sheet music books. Others decided to get out of the industry altogether by bringing forward their retirement plans.

But what most agreed on was that they wouldn’t attempt to open a traditional sheet music store at all in the current climate of change.

Opportunity or threat?

Most came away grateful for the opportunity to unhinge themselves from their own business and brainstorm real solutions with their peers.

Others looked like they wanted to punch me in the nose for so clearly painting the reality of the impending demise of their much-loved industry – at least the way they knew it.

Of course this would be shooting the messenger. Instead, I was but the administrator of the hard medicine they really needed to take.

Re-inventing your own business

Unfortunately few smaller business operators get the kind of opportunity to conduct a realistic assessment of their own business models as they are busy trying to survive some of these changes in the way their markets go about their business.

But given the number of industries that technology has so fundamentally transformed, the importance of doing so at the earliest opportunity shouldn’t be underestimated. Even if not fundamentally transformed, then at least in the way it operates, markets, communicates or sells. Or even just presents itself to a wired (or really wireless) world.

Perhaps you and your team should plan a distraction-less getaway somewhere to take an honest look at what your business would really look like if you built it with today’s customers in mind.

Like some at this conference, you might come away with some business-saving insights.

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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