Wake Up and Smell the Change!

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On August 4, 2014

WakeUpWe often look at Fortune 500 companies and hold them up as examples of how to succeed in business. After all, they didn’t get to where they are by being slouches. But even the biggest and best can get blindsided by shifts in the business world and by changes in the way their customers do business.

Here’s an example. There is a fascinating slideshare program from Acquia entitled Evolve or Die: How Marketing Can Eliminate Bottlenecks and Crush Digital Goals. It’s basically a pitch for their web platform. You can view the slideshow here, but here are a few scary pieces of information that should be wake-up calls for all of us in business.

  • 85 percent of the Fortune 500 companies from 1955 are no longer in business. That’s 429 businesses that didn’t survive because they didn’t adapt
  • Since 2000, 40 percent more went out of business. Even in recent history (when we’ve regarded change as a “constant”) 200 successful businesses failed because they didn’t adapt.

It’s a little scary, isn’t it?

Technology, of course, is at the root of some of this change (and failure to adapt). Here’s a quick look at some changes in the way business is done—just since 2008.

  • In 2008 approximately 10,000,000 iPhone were sold.
  • By 2009 100,000 apps were available
  • In 2011 17,000 iPads were sold
  • By 2012 there were 880,000,000 mobile devices in use
  • In 2013 more than $700,000,000 worth of goods/services were purchased from mobile devices—in just two days!

Think about that. Before 2008 mobile business was essentially nonexistent. A year ago, $700,000,000 in business was done on mobile devices in two days! That’s a BIG change!

Here’s the thing: It’s not just about technology. Your business won’t thrive (or even survive) just because you have the latest gadgets or software. What’s significant here is that the way people do business has changed. And guess what? It will continue to change. If you’re not prepared to change as well, you could be in serious trouble.

A lot of businesses plan and carry on as if things will continue to unfold the same way they always have. For them, growing the business simply means doing more of the same thing. How many of the Fortune 500 companies from 1955 followed that path?

How can you keep your business off that path? If you use SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) to plan, make sure you take the Opportunity and Threat portions seriously. Significant changes in the way your customers do business present both a threat and an opportunity for you.

Beyond that, be a student of your customers. Make sure you know how they are changing. Strive to understand what drives that change. Figure out how you need to adapt in order to meet those changes. And never forget that your customers aren’t there to serve you—you’re there to serve your customers.

That may be the single biggest change you have to make!