Everyday, business owners realize that certain approaches and strategies that worked in the past…
…just don’t cut it anymore.
Because the competition has gotten better – offering comparable products and services at a lower cost and also often of a higher quality.
Or because customers have just moved on – as generations change and their moods and preferences shift.
Or because industries have eroded away, as is sadly happening in traditional retail right now, and has decimated once prosperous industries like newspapers, wired telecommunications, and travel agencies.
I regularly speak with entrepreneurs and executives grappling with these “the world is passing me by” kind of forces and challenges, and I am both impressed and dismayed by the leadership and strategic choices that they try to make to save their businesses from them.
Two conversations from earlier this week stand out for me – the first with the General Manager of a North Carolina war memorial museum and the second with the CEO a $50 million+ revenue Texas – based satellite services business.
While very different entities in so many respects – from their missions to their organizational structures to their technology fluency – the challenges these two leaders face are surprisingly similar.
The museum director’s challenges were greatly driven by the demographic reality that the older, “analog” generation with personal memory of the wars his museum honors are just dying off, while the “digital” generation that are his current and future patrons just don’t go to museums like they once did.
And then squeezing from the other side is the need for and high cost of significant infrastructure improvements at his aging museum facility.
The Texas satellite business CEO had a similar set of “declining sales / increasing costs” challenges.
Their core business for many years has involved the servicing of consumer satellite TV equipment, and as “cord-cutting” has put this business into long term decline, his ability to meaningfully grow his company’s top line has evaporated.
And perhaps most distressingly for both of them, the future trend lines for industry and markets only forecast for their problems to get worse.
Luckily, in my conversations with these fine men, two of the most admirable leadership of them all – resilience and flexibility – were on powerful display.
In the case of the museum director, his resilience came from his commitment to his mission – to honor and keep vibrant the memory of our war veterans.
For our satellite executive, it came from his desire to turn his business around so that its 200+ employees could keep and grow in their jobs.
And from their resilience and determination then came the flexibility to ask the tough existential questions to first save and then grow their enterprises.
Questions like “how could we fulfill our mission if folks just stop visiting museums like ours altogether?”
Or, “in a world where there is no more satellite television, how can we pivot, without going broke as we do, our business expertise to products and services with a brighter future?”
Questions like these require executives to step into the abyss of the ending of their enterprises as they know them so as to have the “tabula rasa” to re-imagine and re-engineer their sustainable businesses of the future.
Resilience and flexibility.
Without both all businesses are doomed to eventual decline and failure.
But with them both…
…not only can we protect ourselves from technological and societal forces that toss and turn and threaten us unrelentingly and without mercy.
But we can also harness their power to transform ourselves and our businesses into new and more prosperous forms than we have ever been.
What about your company?
Do you see opportunity in your market but not sure exactly how to get there? If so, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. In your email, tell me about an opportunity that if you can execute upon it can propel your company forward in a new and powerful way. And then I’ll email you back my thoughts to help you.