Insights

“That’s the way we’ve always done it” = THE most dangerous phrase in business

“How’s business been lately?” I recently asked a CEO of an industrial distribution business.

“Things are good,” was his answer.

“Great to hear! So, sales are increasing then?” I continued.

“Well, actually we’ve had flat revenues for the past three years and this year will be slightly down,” was his response.

I was stunned. Stunned and, quite frankly, confused. This didn’t sound “good” to me.

I had to probe further. “Have you tried the new approach to your sales process we talked about last time?”

“No, we’re just comfortable with the way with always done things,” was the short answer to my question.

And so there it is..…the words we hear so often at ECS. These are the words that are the certain path to the demise of a company.

I could see the ground beneath this CEO’s feet crumbling, but he continued to stand in the same spot and simply was just too stubborn to move.

Accelerating Rate of Change

Let’s look more closely at this scenario. Hey, we get it, nobody likes change.  It’s uncomfortable and at times downright scary.  Not to mention, how will you know what change will make a positive improvement in your business?  It’s easier to stand right here where you know (or perhaps hope) you can still make some money and do what you know.

According to John Kotter at Kotter International, the rate of change in business is no longer going up in a linear direction, but is increasing exponentially.  Life-cycles of products have shortened and patents for new products continue to increase.  This naturally eliminates products and services that no longer deliver value to the marketplace – but notably at a quicker pace than even 10 years ago.

Just think of the free fall of the BlackBerry.  Just a few years ago, most of us couldn’t live without our “crackberry”.  Today, they represent a tiny fraction of the mobile phone market (and shrinking).  Companies like Apple and Samsung delivered better products to the market, and these companies ultimately (and deservedly) took the lion’s share of the market.

Joseph Schumpeter coined this process as “Creative Destruction” – a shorthand description of the free market’s way of delivering progress.

Embrace the Change

This isn’t to say you’re doomed!  Quite the contrary, you have an opportunity TODAY to do things in a different way that may not have existed just a few years ago.  Continuous improvement in technology and process have opened the door to improve productivity across the board.

It’s up to you to find those opportunities and apply them to your business. This way you’re the one driving the creative destruction – and not just reacting to it.

Where to Start?

If you’re with me so far, you’re probably now thinking: ‘That’s all well and good, but how do I get started? What actions can and should I take?’

And I share with you – as change is happening all around us – ideas to move in a positive, new direction:

Your Employees:  Is your business culture one of “do as you’re told”?
If so, you’re missing out on one of the best resources you have – the team.  It’s amazing when we come into companies and find the team is just full of great ideas that no one listens to.  And I’m not just talking about the executives or the leadership team: listen to EVERYONE.
Some of the best and biggest changes we’ve implemented have come from the customer service representatives or others in the company who talk to clients regularly.

Your Peers:  Are you communicating with leaders of other companies?
Do you spend some of your time in industry organizations?  How about participating on a peer board?  I highly encourage you to explore these types of options. Peers will understand your challenges, as they face similar ones all the time.
Take the time to work on your business, not just in it.

Outside Talent:  Have you had someone outside your organization look at your company objectively?
Bringing in a fresh set of eyes with new ideas and observations can give your company the boost it needs to achieve new heights. There are many boutique firms and freelance executives in the marketplace, so it’s very feasible to find a seasoned professional to work with your team.
An outside expert – someone with the advantage of working within multiple companies and different industries – can provide new options and insight to get you growing again and lead your industry.

Don’t want to get left behind?  Would you like to talk further about your challenges?

Bill Morrow is a Managing Partner at Empirical Consulting Solutions. He is a seasoned sales leader with more than two decades of successfully driving growth in companies of all sizes.
Bill can chat further about any questions you have and would love to hear your “leaving the comfort zone” stories. He is also happy to learn more about your situation – and he and the ECS team might be the fresh set of eyes you need to look at your company in a new light.

Connect with Bill or any other member of the ECS team at collaboration@thinkempirical.com or (610) 994-1139.