One of the factors that guarantees the demise of a business is its acceptance of mediocrity. By embracing being average, you’ll end up setting low expectations, hiring average employees, delivering average results, establishing average relationships, and attracting average talent. As a result, you can forget about expanding and competing with the elite of your industry one day. If you want to go where you haven’t before, you need to step out of your comfort zone and embrace the risk of the unfamiliar. This is how you can continue to redefine your "best" self, by raising your own bar of succes.
Innovation at a fast pace has become a necessity for success and relevance. You need to unleash your creativity regularly and analyze your every move to seize opportunities and ultimately change with your customers’ behaviors. As a “what not to do,” let’s consider Blockbuster for instance. Remember them? Yes, a name of yesteryear now, but once a weekend evening tradition for many American families. The company, formed in 1985, filed for bankruptcy in 2010. It didn’t live long through the new millennium because it refused to adapt despite the arrival of a worthy opponent: Netflix.
Netflix had an edge over Blockbuster: it delivered videos to customers’ homes without due dates or late fees. The older video rental service also missed the chance to buy its toughest competitor for $50 million back in 2000. Remaining true to its old paradigm finally cost the company not only success, but existence, especially when Netflix transformed from a mail order service to a streaming one. By 2004, Blockbuster did offer an online option, but it had already lost its clients.
There are many other examples of companies that were too entrenched in their ways to compete. From Xerox to Polaroid, many shut down and parted with the products that put them on the map because they refused to improve. Currently, companies such as BlackBerry and Yahoo are trying their best to get out of their ruts through new products and services. However, it may be a while before the public reacts, especially since these companies discovered what they needed very late. The key is to be on the cutting edge of shift—not reacting, but anticipating, or, even better, pioneering. One of my favorite pieces of business advice comes from an unlikely source: Wayne Gretzky.
“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.”
I trust you get the metaphor.
In order to avoid being stuck in a rut and to guarantee your success for many years to come, you need to master the art of raising your own bar. Here are 5 tips to give you some momentum in the right direction.
In order to succeed in today’s fast moving market, you need to establish achievable goals. And these always start with knowing what success looks like for your company. General and broad statements do no good here. It needs to be specific and it needs to be expressed in terms of your users/clients/customers. For instance, if you want to double your revenue every year, you need to express that goal in terms of how many new users you need to bring in or new products you need to roll out in a year. In addition to these, you should also identify areas of friction and plan on removing them to move ahead.
The Big Company Syndrome, a.k.a. Tunnel Vision, is a long-standing issue for companies and no company is immune. Success can easily blind decision makers, causing them to assume that they can continue being at the top doing the same thing over and over again. If you’re thinking ‘I’m okay with how things are at the moment’, ‘The timing isn’t right’, ‘There’s a lot of pain, but little gain’, or ‘I already know what works,’ you have been infected and your company will resist growth. Be open to change, in fact seek it out (within reason) and embrace it to ensure your company’s growth and secure its position as a thought leader in your industry.
You should be ready to embrace new technology whenever the times demand it. One of the reason Borders Books has faded from existence is its refusal to copy the likes of Amazon and to launch its own eBook reader. It further dug its grave by not accommodating the new trends of reading literature through smartphones or via the web. So take a page from its book and research the market regularly to be prepared for future trends and demands.
Since your customers determine your success, you need to ensure that their relationship with your brand is quite strong. For that, you’ll need to conduct qualitative and quantitative research to analyze customer behavior and preferences. Take Hostess’ Twinkie for example; its highly processed food went against the ‘eat clean, train mean’ motto of the 2000s. After suffering from two bankruptcies and reopening as the Hostess Brands, LLC., it’s expected to re-establish its name in a few years as the provider of healthier, tasty treats. Yay, healthy Twinkies! We’ll believe it when we see it. One thing that’s definite, though: you don’t have to file chapter 11 twice to figure this out. Talk to your customers, listen to your customers, keep an eye on your competitors and, frankly, on general trends in your industry and in the overall culture of your target.
Shoppers are smarter than ever, especially since modern technology allows them to make comparisons and hunt for bargains. If you’re selling online, chances are that you’re tempted to get sucked into discount wars. Just say no. You don’t need to get too involved in discounts and price cuts if you can create value. You need to tap into the power of smart pricing, creative storytelling and setting consumer benefits that aren’t as related to the price of your product, like free shipping, and great support. Through these, you can win over new clients and retain your existing ones.
Stepping beyond your comfort zone to experiment with something new is never easy, especially because there always a chance to fail. But guess what? You’re not avoiding that risk of failure by being static. In fact, that attitude makes failure a guarantee. So get ready to put yourself, your capabilities and your business to the test. Stretch yourself and your company physically, emotionally and mentally beyond your current limitations to succeed.