Former CEO and Chairman of General Electric, Jack Welsh, is famously quoted as saying “change before you have to.” In business, change is a constant; customer needs evolve, new competitors spring up, and your people can be a source of surprises.
Change can be uncomfortable and even painful, and business owners may bury their heads in the sand; that rarely works as a strategy.
Instead, look out for these signs that you need to act and take control sooner rather than later.
Sales are going nowhere
Insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. If customers are not buying, it’s a sign that something is wrong with your business; is it the product, the price or the marketing?
Do some research and be very honest with yourself. The longer you put off the change, the harder it will become as your financial situation goes downhill.
You’ve outgrown your niche
You did the right thing. You started your business in a specific niche, and you’ve seen great success solving that particular problem for those customers. But you still have a lot of untapped potential.
It’s easy to forget that Amazon started out selling books when you look at the eCommerce giant it has become today.
Outgrowing your niche doesn’t mean you need to start again. Amazon still sells books; it has strong foundations that now allow the company to serve more customers in innovative ways.
The key here is to stack on your success sustainably; don’t try to do everything at once. Research, launch, learn, refine and do it all again as soon as you are ready for the next challenge.
Every day feels like a drag
The business started as your passion, but somewhere along the journey, it became a chain, and now everything feels like an uphill struggle. If this is how you think a lot of the time, then you are headed for burnout.
Take some time to write down why you started your business; what was your purpose? What have you enjoyed about the journey so far? How are you feeling now, and what changed?
What needs to change depends on the root course of how you are feeling. Are you bored? Have you done too much for too long? Is it time to appoint someone to run the business for you? Are you still passionate about anything to do with the company? If not, is it time to sell?
If you’ve felt this way for some time, do not make the mistake of thinking the situation will improve on its own. To achieve a different result, you need to take a different action.
You’ve buried your head in the sand
Many of the companies that fail have leaders who are in denial. Consider Kodak, the technology company that dominated the photographic film market for much of the 20th century, filed for bankruptcy in 2012. Kodak had reportedly developed the first digital camera, but they did not launch it through fears of what would happen to the market for film.
Look at what your data, such as sales and customer surveys, are telling you about your business and act before it is too late. Change will always feel uncomfortable, but the alternative is often far more painful.
You don’t like the leader you have become
You started your business with a strong vision and values. Along the way, you compromised some of your values to see success or to make ends meet, and suddenly you are finding it hard to sleep at night.
As a business leader, you set the tone and role model behaviours for your staff. If they see you acting dubiously or taking morally questionable actions, then that will spread in the organisation, and you risk losing valued employees.
It’s never too late to change.
You’re lagging behind the times
Customer needs change over time. What was once a lucrative business can change seemingly overnight even though the signs have been there for some time. Think about the contrasting fortunes of Netflix, which saw incredible success with online streaming while Blockbuster went out of business with its physical stores and rental services.
Sometimes it’s just a case of changing your delivery mechanism to become more relevant.
Speak with your customers and get crystal clear on what problem you are solving for them and how best to solve it. If it’s your first step into the online world, get yourself a website and an eCommerce payment gateway so that you can take payments.
If your customers still value a physical store, make sure you have the modern basics like a countertop card machine or a mobile card machine; relatively few customers carry cash now. Find a payment solution provider who can help you to find the right payment options for your business, such as UTP group.
Conclusion: the best time to change is now
If your business metrics are telling you that something is wrong, or you are struggling to sleep at night, then something needs to change now.
If change feels painful, spend a little time thinking about the alternative options; often those prospects can be motivating factors.
Sometimes all that you need is a small change; perhaps you need a card machine for your business or to get set up online. Sometimes a more significant change is required, such as a change of product or staff.
Spend some time journaling about the situation or talking it over with a trusted mentor or friend. Get clear about what you want, keep yourself accountable for making it happen and be willing to let things go that no longer align with what you need to do to succeed.