Changing the direction of your existing business is challenging, hard and time-consuming work – and certainly not an enterprise for the faint hearted! But, on the flipside, when a chance is carried out well it can also be a highly rewarding and profitable move for you and your business.
How, then, do you decide if a change of business direction is right for you? And how do you ensure that this change process is effective and meets your newly conceived vision for the business?
Why change direction?
No business ever stands still. You may have been established in your industry or sector niche for many years, but markets change and opportunities evolve. To ensure that your business doesn’t stagnate and that there’s a more stable pipeline of new prospects and customers, every business will need to change at some point in its history.
In addition, a change of direction will refresh and improve your engagement with the business and can even improve your work/life balance into the bargain. Something as simple as reviewing and changing your hourly pricing model can result in better profits, fewer hours worked and a more stable cash-flow situation.
Businesses that respond to the world and the changes that are going on around them are the organisations that will be successful in the long run.
Saint & Co are a great example of this: as an established accountancy practice, with decades of experience under our belts, we could have rested on our laurels and coasted along with our existing set up. But we saw that technology and accountancy were both changing, and took on board the incredible benefit of cloud solutions and how emerging technologies could help us do more for our business clients.
Recognising change when it happens is vital. So becoming a partner with Xero online accounting software has been a huge driver of change for us as a practice, and also a proactive move for our clients who now have far superior control over their accounts and financial management.
Change is an ever-repeating process
Change is a circular process. History does repeat itself and trends do come around again time and time again. So there is a real need to remain agile and flexible as a business and to keep one eye on the horizon, ready to change when required.
Take a look at the growth of technology, digital and social media and the new ways that people now communicate. Responding to that change has been critical for most businesses, with whole new areas of social media marketing, eCommerce and online selling becoming the norm in a very short period of time. The companies that have embraced that change are the ones that are most ready to react to, and work with, the more tech-savvy customer.
To make change work effectively for your organisation you must understand where you are now, and where you want to be in the future. Look at your peers, competitors and other industry sectors and pay attention to what they are doing and how you can compete with them.
Even changes that are occurring in industries outside your own can have a knock-on effect. For example, card-less payment has become an accepted norm for consumers in the high-street retail trade, but that desire to pay quickly and efficiently is likely to translate over to business-to-business transactions too in time.
Understand your customers’ needs
Aside from benchmarking your business against competitors, there is also a need to review and understand the nature of your own customer base.
Look at your existing customers and consider some important questions:
- Are these customers happy and satisfied with your existing service?
- Are customers asking for new products and services that you do not yet supply, or have not considered?
- If customers take their custom to a competitor, do you understand why or how you could have retained their business?
- Is there a customer demographic that you do not currently service? And could you grasp that opportunity and fill that gap in your client base?
The simplest and most effective way to gather this information is to talk directly to your customers.
Ask for feedback, send out short customer experience surveys and listen to the feedback you get through your social media channels. Channels such as Twitter and Facebook can be excellent places to poll your customers and get a grass-roots understanding of their needs and wishes from your business.
Plan your change process in detail
As with everything in business, the key to success is careful, well-thought-out planning and research.
Before you begin any change in business direction, do your homework and research your new market, or new customer demographic. The more you know before you start, the better the execution of your change plan will be.
Your business plans must incorporate any projected changes, with flexibility built in to allow for any unforeseen challenges or amendments to your end goals. Set your initial change objectives clearly and plan out in the deepest detail possible how you are going to achieve those goals.
- Think about the cost factors of the change, and where that additional finance will come from.
- Consider how long the change will take, and the impacts on the day-to-day running of the company.
- Ask yourself if you have the skills and talent in-house to implement the chance, or to service your new market and customers.
- Will the organisation need new people, new roles and new skills to deliver your change programme and your end goals?
Take your time and plan this change in real detail. As the old business adage goes ‘Fail to plan = plan to fail’, so do your research, understand the challenges and plan effectively to give your business the best possible chance of success.
Talk with us about embracing change
The quicker you accept and embrace the notion of change, the easier that change becomes to implement, Change is a positive driver for your business and certainly not something to be scared of.
At Saint & Co, we have decades of experience of helping businesses to evolve, grow and change to fit the ever-shifting business environment. We help you to pin down those core goals, research and plan your change programme and deliver an evolution into a sleeker, more streamlined organisation that is in tune with your chosen industry or sector.
Contact your local Saint & Co office and find out how we will help you to embrace the new and change the long-term direction of your business.