Change is Good – Really!

Watching Washington politics lately has made me think about how hard change is for many people. Whether in politics, business or our social lives, most people push back and avoid change. But, as most will eventually realize, change is necessary and should not be avoided. C’mon – let’s all say it together – “Change is good.” Really – you can do it and it will be good for your business.

Why should a business make changes? You may have a very successful business – why change anything? That could backfire – right? Certainly, not all change is good – but don’t use that as an excuse to avoid changing anything.

So, what should you do for your business? Every business has different needs, but there are some fundamental questions you can answer that may help you to determine an appropriate plan for implementing positive change for your company.

#1 What is not working well?
This may sound obvious and some of you may think this is sort of a ‘duh’ statement – but perhaps we have worked for different companies. I put this out there first because just about every business has something that many people gripe about or know is not effective, but it is ‘ignored’ because it is just ‘the way things are done around here’. Ah yes, the status quo. I hate the status quo.
In order to address question #1, if you don’t already know of something that is commonly seen as a problem – just ask. Gather a few of your key people and put the question out there. Ask them to determine 1 thing that is not working as well as it should be. Believe me, they will be able to come up with something. Then put someone in charge of delving into the issue and proposing a change that will improve things. It could be something related to processes, procedures, updating some software, changing phones systems, training issues, even a problem employee. Once the problem is identified and well defined, brainstorm improvement ideas with the right group of people. Put together people who have knowledge and a stake in the outcome and ask them to come up with a better way. Finally (and this is the hard part) implement the changes. This may sound obvious, but I am always amazed at how many good ideas are never implemented. I come in to a new client and make some suggestions and often hear “we talked about doing that last year” or “so-and-so proposed that at our last staff meeting”. Over and over I see good ideas that never go anywhere. It doesn’t count if nothing changes! Don’t let good ideas go to waste.

#2 Are we preparing for the next generation of customers?
I have worked for several industries that I see as being a bit ‘old school’. These companies market and sell their goods pretty much the same way they did 20 years ago. There may be an updated web site and a newer CRM system, but inside, the mindset is getting old. Management is not comfortable with social media, online advertising, email marketing. They are tracking down leads the way they always have – through trade shows, existing contracts, cold calls and the like.
So, here is a wake up call for you – get over it! Times have changed and methods will have to change too. Your customer base will eventually change over to a generation of individuals who have grown up online and communicate differently than you do. Maybe you think twitter is stupid and Facebook is useless. How do you even start an email campaign and what will it do for your business? I know you will question the point of much of this. At a minimum, find someone in your business who can at least get you started or hire someone to get this set up for you. Start to engage in different ways with your customers – or eventually loose them.

#3 What else can be done to improve my business?
Put together a longer term improvement initiative. Take a look at your company – department by department. Have the purchasing people review how they do things and determine what works well and what can be improved. Maybe you can cut down on extraneous paperwork, streamline your ordering methods, better organize your vendor information, etc. Ask Engineering if they can streamline development processes or do a better job when transferring new product to manufacturing or releasing software. Ask everyone to take a look at what they do and set measureable goals to monitor that improvement. There is always something that can be better.

Finally, make positive change a priority and support the efforts from the top down. Real change cannot happen if management does not demand AND support it. Make sure people have time to spend on these efforts, support the implementation of their ideas and reward changes that have an impact. Teach your staff that change truly is good.


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