What affects your business in more profound ways than you may have imagined? CHANGES! Big. Small. Changes. Changes you didn’t notice or which you thought were entirely insignificant. It takes a specific mindset to LOOK for changes. Many managers and owners are not accustomed to this way of thinking and looking and so all sorts of changes occur under their noses – changes that drastically influence their business.
Let’s take an example of a street vendor: One day he starts wearing a bright orange hat. His sales suddenly rocket upward right after that but he doesn’t think much of it. Then one day there is a windstorm and his hat blows off his head, never to be seen again. He doesn’t think much of this either. His sales slump. Now you may say it couldn’t possibly be because of the hat. What difference would that make? But the point is that it was a CHANGE! So he gets a new hat just like it. Now his sales may or may not recover. But if they do recover, then the hat may have had something to do with it. Maybe the hat was just enough to make him stand out in a crowd and cause people to turn their heads in his direction. Maybe the hat had nothing to with it. But if he is ALERT for changes, he would notice things like the hat and could manage his sales that much closer. It’s a mindset and a way of operating not everyone is familiar with.
That was a small example but it illustrates the power of changes. Marketing firms and consultants that know their business have this subject down to a science and an art. They can tell you, by survey and research, what market segments are doing what and when, down to fine detail – like what time of the evening on weeknights professionals in San Francisco are likely to have had three drinks and thus be more “receptive” to an ad that comes on TV (an actual example). While you may or may not need a piece of information like that, and while it is vital to be watchful for any changes, there are specific types of changes – large and small – that managers and entrepreneurs overlook but which have great influence. So you can think better with the subject, here are some of them:
You take on a new person or fire someone or someone quits. Or there is a shift: Employee A takes employee B’s job. What happens next? Someone new arrives, and sales and income drop. You’ll need to look into that. Someone leaves, and sales and income spike up. Take note of that. The possibilities and combinations are endless. Look out for covert and subtle changes. Bob quits. Jack then starts doing Bob’s abandoned job for 50% of his day. But who is doing the other 50% of Jack’s job? That’s right: No one! Be watchful of these scenarios.
Right along with personnel, you have the functions and duties of departments and individual employees. Bob quit without so much as a two-week notice. You hired a new person. But Bob left no instructions behind. The new hire is doing her best but is missing some fundamental points – duties which have now fallen through the cracks. These cracks, the ones in between jobs and people, can turn into cavernous holes in the Earth into which can fall whole sections of your business if you are not watchful.
Your storefront moves. Your central office moves. The receptionist’s desk faces a different direction. Another desk moves so two people who once communicated easily now hardly ever speak. These and infinite other shifts – all relating to SPACE – can and do affect your business.
Nothing brings chaos quite like conflicting or uncoordinated schedules. The hours of operation change in one location but not another, resulting in both offices being unable to reach the other. Someone forgets to update the website on the change in hours, so customers get confused and upset. Scheduling – DONE RIGHT – results in a finely-tuned Swiss-watch-type operation. Done haphazardly, you get disorder and lowered productivity.
The communication channels of a company are sacred. This goes for customers writing in or phoning in seeking more information. It goes for emails into, within, and traveling out of the company. And it also goes for your marketing channels and how you present yourself to the public. Why “sacred”? Because communication is the lifeblood of your business! Small and subtle changes in communication and how it is handled can drastically affect your business.
Your rate of new clients has dropped? Check how inquiries – the first point of contact – are handled. Sales have dropped? See if emails are being answered. Productivity slumped? Check to see if anyone is sitting on any orders or failing to accurately relay any orders. There are infinite ways communication channels can be tampered with – intentionally or unintentionally. You really cannot be too alert on this vital subject.
A major car maker was forced to recall thousands of vehicles. Something was wrong with Quality Control. A “minor” point turned out to be a safety point which necessitated a recall of major proportions. Quality Control (QC) is a vital function in any company no matter what it does. When it falls short, catastrophe looms. Changing a product can of course open the door to quality control problems. The change in the product may be completely necessary, so QC must be effective and able to cope. Be alert to these factors.
I have majorly concentrated on internal changes. That is because these are under your control. You can do something about them. But external changes should not be overlooked. It is easy to say “The change was outside the company so I can’t do anything about it!” But that is a cop-out. The point in identifying an external change or influence is so you CAN do something about it! Markets constantly shift. Spending habits change. Laws change. You must be able to adapt in order to survive! Be alert to changes occurring outside your perimeter.
Absence vs. Presence
The sound barrier was broken at the cost of the lives of a number of test pilots. The pilots flying experimental craft would approach the sound barrier. But suddenly the plane would break apart and the pilots perished. After a few of these tragedies, aviation researchers realized what was happening. The air in front of the plane would pack up and effectively create an invisible wall. The plane might as well have hit a brick wall in midair. The answer then was to make the nose of the plane pointed so it could cut through the wall of air and allow safe passage past the sound barrier. The sound barrier was thus broken.
It was something invisible. It was the ABSENCE of something. Yes, it was the presence of a wall of air, but it was invisible and the plane was missing the essential element to cut through it. Business – and life itself – is full of ABSENCES. Something is not there. It is something you never heard of, something you never thought of, something which does not exist, so identifying it is exponentially more difficult.
When searching for and identifying changes, be sure to look for things that are not there. A missing product, person, procedure, policy, technology, incentive, message, idea – it could be anything. Locating things which are non-existent requires a different way of thinking and takes practice. It also takes creativity.
Change is by nature an ever-evolving phenomenon. Change is constant. Nothing stays the same. Recognizing this and adopting a fluid approach to change can lead to your continued success and prosperity!