The business landscape is changing too rapidly for companies to risk sitting still. Ten years ago, Microsoft was the world’s top earner, and RIM led the way for the new era of smartphones, challenging Palm.

“But that’s all in the technology realm”, people complain. “My industry is different.”

Except it isn’t. Retail has been completely overhauled by web commerce. If your specialty was in providing product and application expertise – the populace is happy to plunder your knowledge, then buy from a heavily discounted webstore. 

The HR and recruiting industries have been completely reformed by LinkedIn.

Marketing – my space – changes so radically from year to year that I need constant tutorials and research on new trends.

Yet many entrepreneurs and owner-managers act shocked when the business they’ve come to expect for ten or twenty years dwindles, and stops walking in the front door. For the most part they are experts, they are very good at what they do – they just haven’t adapted to changing market needs. Or to changing ways of buying and selling within their market.

The days of a reliable five year strategy are long past.  Nimbleness and the ability to adapt are paramount. And keeping your finger on the pulse of your customers. There is no point in continuing to merely offer what you do best, if it isn’t in demand. Usually there are minor changes and course correction- offering adjacent products and services, extending the range, and crossing over market segments with similar needs. Recognizing what those minor changes are takes an effort though, which many owners don’t get to until business begins to pale. 

There are some sophisticated forecasting and preparation techniques like scenario planning, which can keep you ready for sudden shifts.  Most won’t get this far though, and can be well-served by adjusting to current trends and purchasing patterns. Constant course correction is what navigators and pilots do – because it allows you to respond to what you haven’t foreseen. 

Sitting and worrying about when the market will return to what it was three or five years ago, is defeatist. It never will return. The pace of business evolution has accelerated, and we evolve with it, or go extinct. Time to examine your business today, and make adjustments for the coming 6-12 months.

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