In the process of building a business, an entrepreneur is often faced with making tough decisions on a regular basis. When confronted with a transforming landscape, what is the best way to see a trend and evolve your business to grow with it?
Challenged with this issue more than five years ago, I saw paper-map publishers facing a digital future where they would struggle to compete with the likes of Google Maps and digital devices. Their future -- which comprises a part of my industry and livelihood -- was facing a transition, and I saw a trend of paper maps being transformed into digital maps and a way to even the playing field for companies that had previously only offered paper maps.
Related: Reinvent a Product, Not the Wheel
Fast-forward a few years, and paper-map publishers are now embracing the technology they once found as a hindrance; they are still finding a firm footing in a digital world, but they now have a direction and are moving forward.
So what are the lessons for an entrepreneur operating during a time of transition? Trends are important and can be worked to your advantage. Having an understanding of where your industry is heading can greatly influence your business; you can expand and potentially fill a need that currently isn’t there. Follow these tips:
1. Believe in what you are doing. And push to see your idea through, even if faced with resistance. I'm sure Steve Jobs at one point encountered resistance with his ideas for the Macintosh when personal computer technology was still in its infancy and PCs dominated homes and offices. But he powered on through to see his ideas come to fruition.
His legacy to “think different” has inspired many to break from the norm and follow their own pursuits. Consider that as you try to make things happen and see your idea through.
2. “Predict” the future. Entrepreneurs are not fortune-tellers but more than likely they are good at foreseeing a potential issue confronting their business and their industry.
Have this conversation: My company may be doing well now, but how is the industry changing? What do my customers want? Will technology drive or hinder my business? And more importantly, where will my business fit in?
Effective entrepreneurs have companies that have a purpose beyond today. By “predicting” the future or at least trying to, entrepreneurs lay the groundwork for understanding and solving issues that can impede growth (not just for themselves but others as well), which ultimately makes them successful.
3. Follow through. You’ve started the journey from seeing a trend to realizing it. Unfortunately, however, it’s not a road well traveled but rather one paved with failure. The ability to see a belief through and act on a trend lies in understanding that rejection from naysayers, investors and even friends is part of the process.
Pick your battles and know when to concede. Your presentation or technique in achieving a goal may be off target. So revise it as needed but always know that there are several different strategies for how to capitalize on a trend.
4. Extend your network. The desire and ability to learn is key for entrepreneurship and is one of the biggest highlights of starting your own business and idea. I joined boards and became a mentor to several startups as a way to learn about new and trending ideas. This helped and encouraged me in my plan to create a new platform for my existing business. This opened my eyes to the way others think, which can spark ideas and also allowed me to hire bright people and connect to others in new ways.
5. Read about your industry. People often forget that there is a wealth of knowledge in content. I religiously read books, magazines and online publications about map publishing and technology. Knowledge about competitors and the overall landscape helped me create a plan and also encouraged my thinking about creating a way to form a digital marketplace for paper map publishers.
There are also news apps that can aggregate information. Take advantage of technology that can streamline the gathering of content that’s relevant to you and track other influential executives who are looking to move the meter in your industry.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask about trends. What better way is there to identify a trend than to hear directly from customers about what they see? I also tapped into my network and sampled ideas and approaches while constantly talking about the future of the industry with people in the field.
Do you feel like you’re the first to recognize a trend on the horizon? Use your extended network to get the conversation going because other like-minded folks probably share your concerns but just haven’t voiced their thoughts yet.