Success does not breed success. Success breeds lethargy.
The people and companies I admire most are the ones who have had the guts to re-invent themselves IN THE MIDST OF SUCCESS.
About 10 years ago, there was a small Wal-Mart store a couple miles from my home. The parking lot was packed at almost any time of day. I was shocked when they announced they were building a new store five miles away and closing the original store. Of course the new store was a five times larger, with more parking, more services and yes, it was packed any time of day.
Think of this boldness — would you close a store that was wildly successful if you didn’t have to? Wal-Mart has the vision to constantly re-invent itself. It built a new store to put itself out of business! They didn’t have a competitor brash enough to take themselves on so they attacked themselves.
My favorite example of re-invention is Apple and the breathtaking innovation occurring with its iPod and iTunes format. The product was successful, but the real story is how it sustained that success by innovating so furiously that no competitor could keep up.
We can learn some valuable lessons from these examples and apply them to the everyday reality of the small business owner. How are you fighting complacency and the lethargy induced by success? This is the time to take a fine-tooth comb to your business processes and look for re-invention opportunities.
Ten questions toward re-invention
Here are some questions to help you kick-start your re-invention process. If you spend some time on the answers you will certainly develop insights to improve your competitive advantage.
1. How have your customer’s needs changed during this economic downturn and what do you need to do to respond aggressively?
2. What are your industry’s best practices in lean manufacturing, accounting and marketing? How fast can you adopt these practices and create new customer value?
3. If your competitor knew your company’s biggest vulnerabilities, what would it do? What can you do to protect my flanks before this happens?
4. What new technology might disrupt your business model? How do you put it to use before somebody else does?
5. What is the rate of innovation in your marketplace? What would be the implication if you invested and doubled that rate?
6. Have you made any changes to the way you market and advertise to capitalize on cost-effective media channels?
7. Has technology and supply-chain efficiencies opened up new doors in global markets? Is there a new way to work with suppliers that can provide competitive advantage?
8. Do I have the right human skill sets in my company to compete today?
9. How do you measure success? Is it still the right measure?
10. Do you have a handle on which operations are making you the most profits? How has your product mix and profitability changed and how is it likely to change? How can it be re-invigorated?
Though difficult, a leader has no choice but to unseat complacency. You must find a way to move to that better idea or technology, even if it threatens your base business.