May is the month for graduations. For students of all ages it is the time to move forward and look to the next experience and opportunity. For those students culminating an educational goal, they can move forward with a degree in hand, ready to take their education to the next level, start a new career, or just begin "adulting."
We want to leverage this period of springtime graduations to challenge you to think like a student graduate and identify what the next level will be for your business. How do you "graduate" your business to new horizons, more revenue, increased social entrepreneurship, or a new cultural energy?
We will explore this in three ways this week:
- Review Your Company Vision
- Engage in Proactive Change
- Embrace New Ideas
Review Your Company Vision
When you opened your doors for the first time you probably had a well-thought-out vision. Has that original vision changed? Have you graduated out of it to a new and current vision? Or, like some students, is your vision stuck in the same grade only to keep repeating itself over and over again? If you find your vision is outdated, the first step to moving your business to the next level is to refresh your vision and make it current. Having a clear vision of where you want to be in the future will provide you with a gap - a gap that identifies where you are today and where you want to be in the future. The gap becomes your playground for identifying what needs to be different about you, your team, your products/services, and your business structure. In doing this, you may find your vision may need to be bigger, or include larger goals. It may need to be updated based on community involvement or current customer experiences. You may also have changed your business dynamics since you began the business. All of these are clues that your vision should be refreshed and updated.
Engage in Proactive Change
We all know the adage "the only thing that stays the same is change." Although change is a constant it isn't always comfortable, desired or welcomed. A business owner can be reactive to change or a business owner can be proactive to change. We challenge you to identify three major changes that have taken place in your business in the past year and ask yourself: "Did they happen to me? Or, did I make them happen?" Be honest with yourself and assess the degree to which you are proactively initiating change to improve or expand your business. If the major changes in your business have been primarily reactive then we encourage you to examine the areas in your business that needs to change to move your business to the next level.
Tiffany & Co. is an example of a business that proactively initiated change and found success. When it first opened in 1837, Tiffany & Co. was a small stationary and specialty emporium with first-day sales that totaled less than $5. Okay, it was the 1800s, but even back then $5 wasn't that much revenue. They didn't do much better in the days and years after. Then, in 1853 they made a drastic change to focus on jewelry and found world recognition and success. Tiffany & Co. reminds us that change may be necessary and it should be explored for new opportunities. Without change a business may be left behind.
Embrace New Ideas
Don't be afraid to embrace new ideas. Don't rely only on yourself, or a small leadership group, to identify the next level for your business. Some very successful business innovations have come from ideas provided by non-owners or executives. There may be an employee or customer that has an innovative idea that could take your business to great levels. The success of Amazon Prime was based on the company asking for and being open to new ideas and suggestions. Prime started when an Amazon engineer named Charlie Ward pitched the idea in a digital employee suggestion box. Ward thought some customers would be willing to spend more, and might even shop more often if they could be part of a buying club that offered free shipping. They implemented this new idea and to their delight clients were buying 150% more products.
To embrace new ideas you must first get new ideas. Consider the following suggestions for eliciting ideas from others, as well as yourself:
- Provide a suggestion box for employees and customers (electronic and/or physical.)
- Send out surveys or add a question to your current survey that asks for input on what your business can do to increase customer/employee satisfaction or meet additional needs.
- Have brain storming meetings one or two times a year, acknowledge that no idea is a bad one, and you may be surprised by the creativity of your employees.
- Consider the trends and technologies emerging in your industry and explore what might be on the horizon, and how you can embrace it ahead of your competitors.
- Examine industries your business aligns with or crosses into and explore avenues for adding products and services - or moving your existing products and services into complimentary markets.
- Ask yourself, your customers, and your employees: "What frustrates you?" Identifying problems your current customers have may provide opportunities to offer additional product and service solutions.
So our challenge to you is to honestly ask yourself: "Is it time to move my business to the next level?"