By Rhonda Campbell
For more than 70 years IBM ruled the computer market, introducing fully transistorized mainframes, floppy disks and personal computers at a time when other computer companies were still focused on developing large, bulky desktop computers for the military and other government agencies. However, several times since it was founded, even after it had captured a lion’s share of the computer market, IBM realized it had to change.
When It’s Time for a Creative Small Business to Shift
Sometimes it takes a visionary, a creative small business leader with clear foresight, to read the tea leaves and realize it’s time for a company to shift its focus. This can be particularly challenging for large companies that have become accustomed to ruling a market or industry, companies whose employees have grown comfortable resting on the laurels of past successes. In fact, prolonged success can work like a double edged sword if creative small business leaders discontinue seeking new and innovative ways to transform and grow their companies.
To start, silos can start to form within a company, causing managers and entire departments or divisions to compete against one another, forgetting that they are parts of the same company. Prolonged success can also find employees and managers believing that the dominating companies they work for will always be positioned at the top of their market, even when upstarts gain momentum and start chewing away at some of these companies’ profits.
So, how do you know if it’s time for your small business to shift direction, focus? The following signs may signal that it’s time for you and your creative business to shift:
- Loyal customers have stopped purchasing key products (e.g. computers, shoes, housing supplies) from you
- Several years have passed since your business developed and launched a new product/service
- Cash flows at your creative business are causing you to lose sleep at night
- You’re starting to feel bored about your work (and it’s your company)
- Across your industry, former top selling products/services are being replaced in large scale by more advanced products/services
Ways Creative Small Business Leaders Can Shift Their Companies
Expecting to get new, improved results while taking the same old steps may prove to be a waste of time. Muster your courage and saddle up for change so you can create the winning results you truly want. Steps you can take to shift your creative business include:
- Develop analytics to measure results of major projects/initiatives undertaken at your company. Consider eliminating projects that have never yielded positive results as well as projects/initiatives that have yielded mostly poor results (You might be surprised how many creative business leaders do things without knowing how much money certain action steps generate, etc.).
- Design and release a new product/service that moves your business ahead of what’s considered the norm in your market or industry
- Encourage creativity in employees
- Survey clients and customers, asking them to rate your current products/services
- Attend trade shows to stay abreast of new advances in your market/industry
Granted, it takes courage to shift. In fact, it takes courage to shift on a personal and business level. Yet, that’s what successful creative small business leaders have plenty of – courage. They know how to make and follow through on “tough” decisions. They know how to recognize and calm fears in their workforce, ensuring employees that, although the road might feel bumpy at times, making the shift will position them for greater success, unlike how refusing to shift could position them for extinction.
By the way, IBM shifted out of the computer design market in the mid-2000s. The company now provides computer, outsourcing and management services to its clients. It not only survived changes in the computer market at a time when bulky mainframes were being quickly replaced by slim personal computers, it found a way to maintain loyal buying customers throughout the shift. So can you.
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