One day, while glancing through my Facebook feed, I came across a very amusing video from the 80's (I think). It was a man dancing in an attempt to advertise his salon which specialized in Jheri curls. There is a shot that shows him dancing in front of the Arch in St. Louis, and it prompted me to call people in St. Louis to ask for an explanation. They all told the same story: this business was hugely successful but slowly started to decline and eventually went out of business. In the 80's, the "Jheri curl" was a very popular hairstyle but towards the 90's people did not get them as much. So as the last of the activator in people's hair dried up, so did business. Jarrell's, the owner's self-named enterprise, had failed to pivot his business to set him up for long term success beyond the craze of the Jheri curl. When you run an organization, you have to understand that things do not always stay the same, and you must adapt to remain competitive. Here are some things to consider so that you don't share the same fate as Jarrell.
CUSTOMER BASE IS BECOMING DISENGAGED
Customers treat your business how children treat toys which mean that they will get bored quickly. It's possible they grow tired of your product, tired of your marketing, or just tired of your process. For the past couple of years, restaurants have seen a shift in people that want to know more about what is in the food that they eat. Tag words like "organic" and "natural" have been all the rage. So restaurants that are more transparent about their process and how they prepare their food have been very successful while others who have not embraced this were not. Some who did not change much have seen business grow as well. Subway has benefited because you have always been able to see your sandwich being made as opposed to- say- McDonald's preparing food in the back. Acknowledging that your customer base has had a paradigm shift in thinking is an excellent opportunity to pivot to meet them where they are.
Believe it or not, internal problems are often more of an issue than they external factors. If you have an organization that forces you to hire new people every 3-6 months, then my friend you have a major culture problem. Defining and fostering a culture that people want to be a part of can be difficult, but it is necessary. People prefer to be on a winning team so you must find ways to retain them. However, we must first diagnose the problem. Try a focus group with your employees. It can be a sit-down talk, or it can be an anonymous survey. Let's be honest, some of your employees are going to make suggestions way out in left field, and that is okay. You can't do everything they ask but if you can find a way to head in a positive direction they will appreciate your effort. So if you find yourself hemorrhaging great talent, it's time for a change in direction.
SALES ARE SLOWING
When sales become stagnant, it could be any number of reasons. Maybe the business model doesn't work anymore. Perhaps, your prices are too high. Whatever the case, you have to fix this and fast. Check on your competition to see if they have brought something new to the market or maybe check to see how your prices compare. Often when prices are too low, consumers can perceive it as an inferior product or service. Another way to kick sales into high gear is to consider introducing products to a new market. Let's say you sell insoles for shoes and for the longest time your top buyers have been senior citizens who like to walk. Maybe you could consider selling to high school sports teams. That could help with performance. Stagnant sales numbers are a good indicator of the need for pivoting and can lead to growth.
COMPETITION FORCES YOUR HAND
Competitors sometimes flood the market, and they cut their piece of the pie. Maybe the game is not as deep, and they have developed a product that is irresistible to the market. Either way, you have to counter. How do you differentiate your product from the current offerings? Think about the way you create value and how it compares to the competition. They may have something new but maybe you counter by putting a popular item on sale. Also, consider just adding free or reduced items with a purchase. Adding value is the name of the game. Someone once said that "if your presence doesn't add value, your presence won't make a difference." That has never been truer.
WHAT'S THE BOTTOM LINE?
Pivoting in your business is a good thing and should be a welcomed change. Like any other decision, calculated and responsible change achieves the most desired outcome. Sometimes when you make a change, just a tweak will do or maybe a complete overhaul is in order. Paying attention to the market and your competitors can help you make the decision on how much to change. Be open to change and your organization can flourish. Reject it and, well, your business will dry up just like Jarrell's. #AnOwlInYourCorner