It would be great if businesses never had to change. If owning a business meant that you did not have to think about re-inventing it to meet the changing wants and needs of customers, or face internal or external challenges, your business would not be able to grow into the future.
It is unwise to assume that good customer service leads directly to customer satisfaction. At Standard Bank we define a positive customer experience as one so personalised that an individual’s preferences and needs are taken into account.
Working on and in your business
Entrepreneurs tend get caught up in the day to day “operational trap” of chasing deadlines, taking responsibility for multiple functions within the business, cash flow challenges and more. “Reality dictates that business today is a rapidly changing, competitive place where the only constant is change. It is therefore essential that entrepreneurs make the time to function both ‘on’ and ‘in’ their businesses” says Ravi Govender, Head of Small Enterprise, Business Banking at Standard Bank.
“Being prepared for change means being aware of what is developing around you, so that you are ready to grab opportunities and avoid the risks and losses that could occur if you are not ready for change. Taking your business to the next level depends on carrying out strength and weakness exercises, and examining your business critically. Concentrate on what change could mean and address potential weaknesses so that they too become strengths.”
“Essentially, you need to look at events differently and proactively navigate your next challenge. Where most people see disruption and fight against change, you must see opportunity and embrace what change has to offer,” says Govender.
Shaping the future of your business
There are various key factors that can shape the future of your business. These include technology, aspects within the business itself, within society around us, and/or in the environment.
“To prepare effectively for events that could alter the shape and future prospects of your business, you must identify which events have the greatest potential to disrupt it. You also need to consider what sources to consult to stay ahead of the curve. Most importantly, you should have a long-term view of where you want your business to be in, say, five years,” says Mr Govender.
Things that should be top-of-mind include:
- Learning to leverage agility and nimbleness. In delivering the product or service that lies at the heart of the business-customer relationship, small businesses are at both an advantage and disadvantage. They have more of an opportunity because they have immediate control over the products or services being sold. They face more of a challenge in that they lack resources.
- Understanding the trends that could have the largest negative impact on your business in the next five to seven years.
- What questions you should be asking yourself about your business and its future.
- Looking outside the business to identify where your new opportunities will come from, and remembering that opportunities always occur when change takes place.
- The sources that should be consulted to stay up-to-date.
- How to take concrete action by using information effectively.
One of the major trends impacting on businesses is technology “New processes and products are constantly being introduced. Prices are dropping, and it is becoming easier to access information from a range of devices – with smartphones leading the pack,” says Govender.
“You may have to view your operations, products and services in this light. Instead of buying equipment that could be obsolete within a year, you could be better off saving the capital and leasing equipment instead. If your business relies on marketing, the technological revolution could mean swopping from printed material to electronically-delivered catalogues.”
Ask the right questions
Asking yourself: What if questions about your business and the industry you work in is also important.
Think about new processes that could be introduced, which competitors could enter the market and how your products or services would measure up. The key to success is being able to look at your business with a critical eye, evaluate how it operates, and how things could be improved to maintain your competitive edge.
Evaluate your customer base
Always be aware of who your customers are, what they want and where they live. By keeping an eye on the area in which your business is situated or areas you serve, you can identify changes in the neighbourhood and develop your offerings to increase your sales.
You may find, for example, that young, upwardly mobile professionals are buying houses in the area and renovating houses. By knowing this, you could develop products or services that would be of interest to them and create new market opportunities for your business.
“It may seem irrelevant to think about the environment when considering your small business. The truth, however, is that people are becoming increasingly conscious about the impact they have on the environment,” says Govender.
It would be misguided to think that your business won’t be impacted on because people love your products and don’t care about the materials or packaging you use. By taking action to ensure that you use recyclable materials and that your products have no or reduced adverse impact on the planet, you could be safeguarding the future of your business.
“Making sure that you understand future trends will ensure that you can adapt and therefore grow your business steadily, rather than run the risk of becoming irrelevant,” says Govender.