“Change is not a four-letter word ... but often your reaction to it is!” -- Jeffrey Gitomer
Every organization will, at some point, experience change. It doesn’t have to be bad. I joked recently with a good friend who owns a successful business, and she said, “If you haven’t failed, been challenged or had to change your business in some seemingly heartbreaking way, you haven’t had a business.” What she is saying is very wise. I would not nearly be as well versed in business, customer connection, work/life balance, personal, and business management if I had not had major changes in my businesses.
Change as Evolution
Let’s reframe the idea of change. We have to let go of it being seen as a bad thing. It is the absolute best thing for any business. It doesn’t matter if you are the only employee or have a hundred people counting on you to lead them. Your approach and mindset will set them at ease, but you will know you are making choices that will guide your decision making, not limit it. Evolving your company into new areas, partnerships, products, and services all require change.
The Menu Is Going To Change
Sometimes leaders need help too. In an old chick-flick film called Simply Irresistible, a newly successful chef is apprehensive about changing the menu. Her original menu had been thought out and planned. The guest list was filled with critics, investors, and other influential people eager to experience amazing food. She looked to her Sous-chef and said with concern in her eyes, “The menu is going to change.” Her Sous-chef turns to the kitchen staff and stands perfectly straight, shoulders square, hands overlapped behind his back at his waist, and confidently states, “The menu is going to change.” I think about this scene anytime we need to change something in our business. Primarily, it’s for my reserve to make a change that is right for me and the business. Whether it’s a price change, a boundary issue, or something more beneficial for everyone involved in our business, it’s important to stand my ground.
If you are in business and are the only one making the choices, you will need a coach or three. Albert Einstein said, “You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.” Therefore you must look outside of yourself for answers when you are contemplating a change, even before the need arises. In a previous blog post Getting Past Setbacks, Disappointment, and the Unexpected in Entrepreneurship, I mention the need to have a mental crystal ball. I want to be clear; we don’t only use the crystal ball to look for potential problems, but also potential opportunities. When you have someone to bounce ideas off of, you can get clearer about what possible directions, streamlined processes, and cost-effective approaches may be best to pursue.
At As You Wish Publishing Todd Schaefer, our COO is similar to the sous-chef in the movie. He protects our brand, makes sure I stay on track, always connects me back to the most important aspect of our business, comes up with new ideas, and is willing to support my vetted choices. At times we will go toe to toe around an issue, and once everything is fully worked through, we often have an awesome product, approach, or change that moves our company forward. Don’t be afraid to get messy when it comes to your business. You don’t have it all figured out, as someone who always thinks she has it figured out, you don’t, and that is an excellent thing. Stay on the leading edge of growth and watch magical things happen.
Your Reaction To Change
It’s okay to be nervous about a big change. If you are facing some major business decisions right now, you are allowed to take one day to freak out, but you only get one day. After your break, make a choice, even if it’s seemingly the wrong one. Inaction begets more inaction; action gives you information.
A note about action, giant sweeping major changes cannot be made in an instant or a vacuum. Be sure to vet your ideas with someone outside of your realm of influence. Never go to your customers with major choices like “should I close my business.” Taking this major action will cause your audience and customer to get nervous. A more helpful solution for taking action that generates information is polling.
Are you trying to discover another stream of income? Poll your audiences. Find out if your audience even wants what you have to offer or are thinking of offering. Maybe your audience has shifted as you have grown in your company, and you need to consider branching out. Perhaps your current audience needs something new, or a new problem is affecting them, ask and see where you and your service can fill the gap.
The more information you have, the easier your choices, and therefore the easier the change. Once you get feedback from some simple changes that gently move you toward a chosen goal (perhaps even a new goal), you will discover how to course correct. Gently move your customers with you.
Change is Good
At first, it may seem overwhelming to face a significant change in your business, but if you allow yourself to step back and discover possibilities, you can use change as an ally. Let’s say a product that has sold well for years stops selling suddenly. It’s time to question yourself about your product. What’s happening in the world or the market. Is it a temporary lull that you can ride out? Ask your audience what they are needing. Is it time to diversify your product line? What is your reputation in the world? Google yourself, make sure you are in alignment with your mission and purpose. Does your mission or purpose need to change or expand?
Business owners are in a powerful position to self reflect in a way not everyone is called to do. Once you reflect on your life, your business, and everyone in your circle of influence, you are in a unique situation to be agile. Being agile in a changing world creates limitless possibilities for you and all those involved. Change is inevitable, it is constant, and when you can flow with it, the world will unfold at your feet. You got this!