How to Spot Business Change Indicators - dummies

How to Spot Business Change Indicators

By Christina Tangora Schlachter, Terry H. Hildebrandt, MA, MA, PCC

How do you know if you need to enact any business changes? Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a big alarm that went off to let you know you need to change? Although that may seem like wishful thinking, you probably already have that big alarm button.

Unfortunately, that alarm button may be lost in a swarm of e-mails, reports, and meetings. To dig out the big alarm button, ask yourself whether your company is going through or has been through any of these big change events:

  • Are you losing market share? Are profits suffering? If other companies are taking over your market share by offering a product or service that’s more appealing to your best customers, start thinking about changing the way your company differentiates itself in the marketplace and brings value to your customers. If someone else is luring your ideal customers (even if they aren’t yours yet), the time is right to start changing.

  • Are your best employees leaving to work for your competitors? If competitors have a better work culture or more progressive employment practices (flextime or work-from-home options) or are growing and offer more opportunities for advancement, start thinking about how you can change to attract and keep the best and brightest brains in your company.

  • Has new technology made your products or services obsolete? Or is your company’s image simply outdated? Things change, and they change fast. A good indicator of the need for change is having products and services that are stuck back in 1999. For example, if you’re still trying to sell dial-up Internet service, you could use a change.

    Sometimes the outdated feel comes from the culture of the company or a product’s marketing, not necessarily from the product. Keep in mind that some of the best products and services haven’t changed for years, perhaps even decades.

    For example, Coca-Cola has been around for decades and will still be here decades from now. The product remains stable and reliable, but the company’s image changes with the times. Just because a product is old doesn’t make it outdated.

  • Has the company been sold to another one or merged with another company? If so, your company may have a perfect opportunity to implement change. When two companies come together as one, you can’t just change the logo on the business cards and expect business to continue as usual.

    If no one steps up to manage the merge, issues will crop up in how people communicate, how teams work together, how performance is evaluated, and in hundreds of other people and process issues.

    Is the company expanding — either geographically or into new product and market categories? Has globalization resulted in shifts in labor and materials costs? As your company grows, you have to identify what you need to change as well as what you should keep the same.

    Growth is a great thing in business, but growing without recognizing the need to change how the company operates is about as rational as trying to put a 10,000 pound elephant on a kid’s scooter: It’s not going to happen, and the scooter will probably be damaged in the attempt.

  • Do you have a new CEO or leadership team? High-level personnel changes merit a change plan because they’re bound to cause shifts in organizational direction, business goals, and even how individual and team performance are addressed. The change plan should include a strategy to address concerns and ideas of the employees working for the new leadership team.

  • Are you implementing a new technology platform in your company? New technology is exciting, but with new technology comes new processes for work and new ways employees will do the work — in other words, change. If you just implement a new technology without addressing the people and process side of change, you will most likely end up paying for a wonderful tool that nobody can use or plans on using.

Don’t sit back and assess whether you need to change how you do business only once a year. Refer back to your business plan frequently to track growth, market direction, and accountability within the organization.

A big mistake many executives make is changing too often, just because everyone else is changing. When you think about your change, make sure you really need to shake things up for long-term success.