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Lizbiz strategies: Change is not in the rearview mirror

By Lisbeth Calandrino

Volume 26/Number 26; May 13/20, 2013

Before you can create today, you must forget yesterday.

I recently spoke at an event called Smalbany (Small Business Convention in Albany, N.Y.). The premise was whether the past affects the future and was called, “Change is Not in The Rear View Mirror.”

Although many businesses still feel they’re experiencing a failing economy, they are reluctant to change. It’s not that they don’t know they have to change, it’s they are caught—or paralyzed—in the past. They know the past is behind them and reluctantly give credence to factors presently influencing their business.

The use of social media is a prime example. Many still believe it doesn’t influence their business.

Ask any owner about customer service and he will tell you this is his prime concern. If you ask him about staying in touch with his customers he will say this is another key area. But ask him if he is using social media as one of the ways to stay in touch and he’ll ask you, “What for?”

When contemplating change it’s wise to look at the present and examine what’s happening in the marketplace. The reality of most markets is some loss of revenues decrease in business or competitors gaining an advantage. Take a look at the industry leaders. What are they doing?

For everyone, now is the time to rethink, retool and remake. But change is often difficult and slow. Why? Because we make it that way—we do the one step forward, two step back dance.

Consider the airlines: Charging for baggage, not serving snacks, adding Wi-Fi, eliminating blankets and pillows all in the name of survival and change. Many of the changes appear not well thought out and some a little too late. Customers have been asking about Internet connections for years. This is a long overdue service. It makes you wonder, what they are thinking about? We know what it is—charging for bags.

One of the stumbling blocks to change, whether personal or business, is the lack of urgency. The Harvard Business Review mentions how businesses rarely understand how difficult it is to get their employees to change—even if the leader decides it’s a good idea.

This became quite evident several years ago when a major flooring client went out of business. At the time they were losing market share, business was down and focus groups were supporting a need for change. Not only were they supporting change, they even had creative and meaningful ideas on what needed to change.

What made it even worse is management knew the customers were right. The thing that made this 40-year-old company so terrific was its ability to change on a dime and its sensitivity to the marketplace.

Unfortunately, the organization was going down for the count. Middle management was determined to stay where it was and ignored both the economic signs and ideas of loyal customers. Urgency was never established; people wouldn’t budge.

Leadership was unable to take the needed stance and within two years the company was gone. For change to occur, those on the top must be clear about the urgency and start the process quickly.

We are all fragile when it comes to change. Sometimes, even eagles need a push.