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Is your company losing its edge?

Apr 09 2019 08:00
Amanda Visser

Companies sometimes have to “scoop” themselves to survive. Kodak decided to hold back its scoop. It was the first company to develop a digital camera. Instead of marketing it, it held back to save its film business.

We all know how that ended.

But you have to have the right vision when you want to reinvent your business.

With the onset of online news websites, newspaper editors kept the scoops for the newspaper – the next day. They inevitably got scooped by their competitors. Many newspapers are still struggling to find the right business model to continue making money from their news.

Many more companies are struggling to predict and assess the rate of change happening around them and how to recognise the signs that they are falling behind.

One may have an existing business model that still has some life in it, but maybe for only another decade or so.

“The reality is to have the courage to see things for what they are, and not for the way you want them to be,” says Gidon Novick, founder of Lucid Ventures, and co-founder of Colectiv.

Today’s business owners need courage, commitment and resilience to drive change and innovation. It is human nature to avoid things that are new because the outcome is uncertain and scary or threatens to disrupt your current model. People tend to clutch onto things that are predictable and clear.

“That is where the rubber hits the road in terms of organisations that are willing and able to adapt and change, compared to organisations that stay stuck in their current model or mindset,” says Novick.

Jeff Bullas, digital entrepreneur and founder of the jeffbullas.com website, lists ten “alarming signs” that a business is in trouble. One is being inflexible and not being willing to listen to and to watch what is happening around you and your business.

Another is thinking that your university education is going to carry you right through the tsunami of change. “Read blogs in your industry, attend conferences and read till your eyes bleed. A fast-changing world means yesterday’s degree is just a piece of paper.”

In a time where access and experience are more important than ownership, you have to make it easy for people to get your product. Younger people are the future, and they know what works on social media and the internet, says Bullas. If you ignore their insight, it will be at your own peril.

Bullas says relevance today means global thinking. Your competitor is no longer necessarily the store down the road, it can be in Hong Kong, New York or London.

The simple things, like being found in a web-search, are also important. Not being found in a search can be a death sentence, he says. “Not investing the time and effort in making sure you rank high in search engines is not an option unless you think Google is going away soon.”

Novick says business owners must be open to information that is contrary to their current business model and their current thinking. Organisations will come and go as a natural cause of things – as an entrepreneur one must see the opportunity in that.

“There is no formula that says if you do this and that you will save your business from ultimate destruction,” says Novick. But, having a “change mindset” and allowing it to permeate throughout the organisation certainly helps.

Often technology is the key difference between continuing to be relevant and business extinction, says Bullas.

“I don’t mean upgrading your photocopier but taking a long hard look at trends in the industry that are promising disruption. E-commerce is not just about buying on the web, it is commerce driven by technology that offers better service, speed to market and global reach.”

Most organisations exist because they are solving problems for their customers or they are fulfilling a need. Organisations should be asking questions like: What is the problem I am solving? How have the needs of my customers changed over the years? Have I been able to fulfil their needs as they have changed?

One of the most valuable lessons for any business is to stay close to its customers, says Andrew Bahlmann, managing director of Deal Leaders Africa.

It is not a matter of reinventing yourself all the time, says Bahlmann, but you need to know what it is that your customer wants without getting sucked in by trends. “Sometimes I think it is just about following the recipe and getting the basics right.”

Novick says one thing that South African consumers are yearning for is organisations they can trust. “They have lost faith in government, in companies because they have been misled by them, and they are losing faith in consumer-orientated companies who make promises and do not deliver,” he says.

And while there is a crisis of trust in the system, it is presenting opportunities to organisations, brands and companies to position themselves purely based on building trust.

Bahlmann says when investors look at companies, they want to see solid governance structures to ensure that there is trust in the business. “You do not have to have the same structures as a listed company, but you have got to have good controls. You must give yourself or a third party comfort that your business can run without you or that it can deal with the risks facing it out there.”

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