Company, Products, Thinking Seem Stale, Falling Behind Competitors

At some stage of a company’s life cycle, it becomes critical to create new markets, products and approaches.

Innovation by competitions is making our product lines look old and tired, we’re falling behind.

We need to innovate, renovate our product lines, change and update our thinking to deal with fast moving changes and tough competition online, locally, nationally and internationally.

Here’s what to do to renovate your business and get enjoy years more of solid growth and profit from delighted customers.

There comes a time in the life of every business when it needs a revamp, a refresh or repositioning. Maybe your brand is out of step with the philosophy you practice and does not reflect the expectations you set.  Perhaps you just don’t react as fast as your competition like you used to.  This happens when companies’ processes, know-how, products and services have not kept up with the times.

Think what it would be like if a computer company with the brand expectation of delivering cutting edge sleek design and ease of use one day woke up and realized their design was a decade out of style, the performance was 4 years behind current Windows devices and was still using a black and white screen.  You don’t want to be that company. Not even a little!

You know when you are out of date are when (with apologies to Jeff Foxworth):

  • You’re falling behind competitors. Whether this manifests as losing market share, failing to secure gigs that others bid on, or discovering your prices are completely out of whack, if you get the feeling you’re not up there with #1, you’re probably right.
  • Your processes are out of date. This is an easy place to find yourself today with the rapid advances in digital systems. If you’re still taking orders by telephone, paying your bills by checks in the mail, and doing your accounting with spreadsheets, it’s time you catch up.
  • Your products aren’t relevant any longer. If someone else is doing what you do, only better, faster or simpler, it’s time for a deep dive into research and development. Whether you sell manufactured goods, retail items, or intangible services, it’s important to give your customers what they want.
  • Your customers are not reordering from you. Your long-time customers will usually be the last to abandon you but if the newer customers don’t do repeat business with you like you are used to, that’s a tip off that something is wrong.
It isn’t easy recognizing that you’re out of date, but it’s even more challenging to change the status quo.  People are highly resistant to change, it’s a built-in mental quirk and will rationalize away evidence things are headed south.  Until they finally have to do something.

Luckily, renovating and remodeling your business and its products is not impossible.  So, if you’re serious about wanting your business to succeed in the “Roarin’ Twenties”, read on to find out what to do.

Determine Your Destination

As Yogi Berra put it: “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”  You need to be crystal clear on where you need to go.  To determine your destination, you’ll have to take several steps:

  1. Review or audit your current situation.
  • Find out what share of the target market you currently hold. Where are you losing? How fast are you falling behind? Gather information on your customers’ levels of satisfaction. Check your records to see what your average customer’s lifetime value is and compare that with previous values.
  • Identify the gap between what you aim to deliver and your actual results. Poll your employees to find out what they know about why this gap exists. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn by getting down in the trenches occasionally and asking the people who are closest to your customers.
  1. Assess your key strengths.
  • Conduct a SWOT analysis to find out where your weaknesses lie, the threats you face, and the opportunities available for the taking. What are the things you do better than anyone else? Is your company recognized in the market for these? Where are you making the most of these strengths today?
  1. Identify your objectives.
  • Once you know where you are, you can compare this with where you want to be. That gap is what you must fill. Objectives not only apply to today, but to the future too. Set objectives for what you’d like to achieve in two years, five years and 10 years, and identify what you need to do between now and then to get there.
  1. Develop a long-term strategic plan.
  • Nothing happens by itself, least of all business success. To achieve your long-term objectives, you’ll need a detailed road map with checkpoints and milestones along the way to know if you are winning the race. What do you need to do to achieve a 50% growth in 10 years, for example? Can you do it with your current products and processes? If not, what needs to change, and what are the phases of that change?
  1. Define your short-term goals.
  • Unlike cars, few companies can go from 0 to 100 in a few seconds. After you’ve identified the key objectives you need to carry out to reach your objective, it’s time to set some short-term key objectives that must be accomplished in the first year. Then break those down into what you must accomplish each quarter then each week. The result will be the detail roadmap that makes certain you stay on course, hit your time marks for each stage and ultimately reach the finish line a winner.

By the end of this process, you’ll know exactly where you’re going in the short term and how it ties in with your long-term plans. You’ll also have a clear idea of how you’re going to get there, and the skills and assistance you need to help you. Each of these goals will require an action plan to make it happen successfully, and we’ll get to that next.

Create an Action Plan for Achieving Your Goals   

Set up a planned approach for every short-term key objective, which includes identifying the needs of the department or function in question, researching and choosing a solution, implementing the method, and measuring how well it’s working. A project-management methodology is a good way of doing these things. This means setting up a team of people with specific expertise to handle different aspects of the project.

Your action plans could include:

 

New Product Development

Form a team to investigate what products and features your customers need, determine if you can incorporate these into your current offering, or if you need to develop new products with those features.

Examine what your competitors are offering, and ways you can deliver the same results only better. Identify what machinery and equipment you’ll need to invest in, available investment dollars and what you can expect your ROI to be.

Digital Transformation of Processes and Information Systems

Perhaps it’s not what you offer that needs to change, but how you deliver it. An action plan to transform your systems and processes should include:

  • identifying your own internal needs management and accounting needs,
  • finding software vendors whose products match your requirements
  • getting demonstrations of the different systems and arranging trials to see what works for you.

Once you make your choice, you’ll need a separate action plan for implantation of the solution.

Employee Empowerment

Put your employees on the bus with you.  They will be scared to death as a hint of reorganization or change leaks out.  You don’t want to lose your best people simply because you don’t explain what you are doing, how they fit in and will see better opportunities and growth, and oh yes, still have a job.  Be transparent about management and leadership changes and do everything you can to visibly safeguard staff jobs.

Taking your valuable employees along on this journey is vital if you want to succeed and keep your team intact. Get your employees engaged from the outset by making them part of the process, asking for their input, and co-opting them on to various project teams. Identify the training they’ll need to be able to manage the new products and processes, and make sure they know from the beginning that they will receive the necessary training.

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