Changing opportunities

If a definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, then there are a lot of insane managers.

They’re easy to spot. They complain about their business, but when asked what they have changed to address the issues and ease the pain, the answer is typically “not much.”

It’s doubtful they actually enjoy the pain. Instead, they probably have a difficult time with change.

But innovation and change can fix problems, breathing new life into a stale or dying business. They must be implemented throughout a business — operations processes, management and corporate structure, sales systems, products and services, and even target clientele.

I recently worked with a family-owned company that had been in business for a few generations. It had grown and earned family members and employees nice livings. But over the last few years, it hit a plateau.

Every time a quarterly statement was issued, management discussed the situation. What could they do to get rolling again? How could they jumpstart sales and regain the good old days?

Their conclusion was always the same — do more of the things they had been doing for years, but do them better and work harder. Unfortunately, they failed to recognize that this wasn’t the problem. No matter how hard they worked, the situation would never get better.

Finally, the pain reached an unbearable level and they agreed to leave their comfort zone and consider making major changes to the entire operation.

In theirs, as in so many other industries, the basic model needed to change. They re-examined their operating, sales and financial models, asking one key question — “Why do we do it this way?”

They also asked customers what they liked and wanted, then over several months, restructured the company. They changed their sales and marketing focus and methods, modified product offerings to better meet customers’ needs and altered pricing and purchasing practices.

Once they accepted that what worked yesterday was not working very well today, change became exciting and fun. Joel Strom ([email protected]) is director of Joel Strom Associates, LLC, the growth management practice of C&P Advisors LLC. The firm works exclusively with closely held businesses and their ownership, helping them set and achieve growth objectives while maximizing their profitability and value. Contact him at (216) 831-2663.