That may be in a literal, geographic sense or in a more abstract way. Is your product right for this particular market or for some other one?
Judi Shepard Missett, 54, was a professional dancer and dance instructor in the Chicago suburbs when she worked up the idea that would become Jazzercise, a dance-based fitness program that is now taught in 19,000 classes every week nationwide. In 1972, three years into the idea's development, she and her husband felt drawn to Southern California. In December of that year, they quit their jobs and headed for San Diego.
Leaving Chicago meant turning her back on the city's theater business, which had kept her busy performing, but Missett quickly realized that in doing so, she'd opened herself up to a major new opportunity. "San Diego was and still is very open to anything that has to do with health and fitness," she says. "So people were very ready for these classes I wanted to teach. They wanted me everywhere in town; it was nothing like Chicago. [Jazzercise] spread like wildfire."
3. Tune in to Your Employees
Is yours the kind of workplace where when one person is swamped, another naturally helps carry the load? Or do your employees keep their heads down and do only the tasks that are theirs? Do your employees expect that for the company to win, they have to lose, or do they think a win-win scenario is possible?
Houda Samaha is a Framingham, Massachusetts, management consultant who specializes in prepping corporate staffs for innovation and change. In her work, she's noticed that too many entrepreneurs and managers assume everybody below them knows what's expected of them, but they never bother to find out if that's really true. By discovering what your workers believe is standard practice, you may find openings for profitable changes, she says.
Samaha notes that early on, FedEx's well-known hub system was full of bugs. Although the company promised overnight delivery, entire shipments were sometimes stalled at the company's Memphis, Tennessee, hub, causing bottlenecks throughout the system. The reason, says Samaha, was that the crucial work of unloading, sorting and reloading packages was being done by wage workers who were paid to put in eight hours, no matter how quickly or slowly the work got done.
"They put in eight hours, and if the planes hadn't all been unloaded, so what? They went home," she says. When executives who wanted to make good on the company's service vows figured out this was the norm, they adopted a new pay policy that changed everything. Now workers are paid for a set number of hours per week even if the work is finished in half the time.
"You can't change people's behavior unless you know what's making them act the way they do," Samaha says. Once you've determined the reason employees perform the way they do, give them a better reason to do something different.