The importance of embracing adaptability for your business to succeed;
Adaptability, it’s a buzz word right? Something companies write in their mission statements and happily extol as a core company belief? Nobody really buys into it, do they? Being an adaptable, agile or flexible in business means being able to react to shifts and changes in the environment within which you operate. People often say that a company failed because the environment changed, nonsense that business would have survived that change had they been able or willing to adapt. A company must be like water, reactionary. Having foresight and planning for change are essential but you must not rest on your laurels, flexibility must be embedded in your company DNA from the top to the bottom. Each and every facet must know not only how to change but how to remain effective while doing so, herein lies the real challenge.
Adapting to change doesn’t alter who you are, this is a common misconception, your core values and beliefs don’t have to change just because you adapt to an environmental change. Being stubborn in this regard will ultimately do you harm. Why wouldn’t you want to adapt anyway? The best companies do it, the most successful companies do it. Apple is a great example, they have reinvented adaptability, repeatedly and continue to do so. The stubborn leader works on the misguided assumption that the market will change course back to how it was, everything will be ok if we just sit tight, it won’t buddy, you need to chart a new course, there’s an iceberg ahead and it’s not moving for you.
So what to do? Well, you have got to plan for change, forecasting potential shifts will help you stay in front of any nasty bumps in the road. Create a scenario, devise how your business would adapt to this scenario, that way should the scenario become a reality, you have there, at your disposal, a plan to enact. Embrace information, we live in a time where there really is no excuse for getting caught with our proverbial pants down. If you don’t have access to the key information that will help you strategise for change then you need to find a way to get it. The right analytics and information can help you react even before there is a market change, can help you predict change. Nobody wants to be the last one to react, business is like musical chairs, and if I were you I’d be keeping an eye on the finger hovering over the button, not merrily dancing round with my head in the air. There must be a culture of continuous learning, always challenging and asking questions of yourself, leaders who live in the status quo are the leaders who inevitably react slowest. For a company to navigate the seas of change it requires strong and effective leadership, limp leaders will flounder here.
If I may be self-indulgent, my own story of adapting to change is one that might ring true with many. My business began life as a B2B sales company, started off well, built a loyal customer base. But then my personal circumstances changed, with a young family of four boys we were unable to secure childcare that was affordable. My wife had a successful career so it made sense that I worked from home. As a B2B sales company customer interaction was vital and I wasn’t getting to take full advantage, I was on the road one day a week and that was usually spent chasing debtors, a practice which in itself is inefficient and costly. Loyal customers were still telephoning through orders and product was going out the door but it wasn’t enough, the business was flat, paying a few bills but little else, cash flow was causing problems, something had to change. I sat down and considered my options, I knew what I wanted to do straight away, online e-commerce. I could work from home, cash flow would no longer be an issue and I could stay within the industry I was familiar with, with the products I already knew inside out. The decision was made, luckily I had the full support of my wife and was able to take the time to change the business structure. With a full re-brand and a bold new image it was a radical but essential change which is where we are today as Wolfhound Direct Ltd. Was it scary? Damn right it was, change can be scary but what’s the alternative? If you have a passion for enterprise and belief in yourself sometimes you have to pull up your big boy pants and knuckle down, when life gives you lemons, turn them into avocados, the GP is better.