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Why Your Success Depends on You Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone The art of managing people, your customers and your business in a fast-changing world.

By Ed Hatton

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We know that change is the only constant and the rate of change is increasing. Change destroys old certainties but brings new opportunities. Disruptive technologies like Uber have affected whole industries, but a simple and local technology could change your world. For instance, an app could make entire communication systems redundant. Legislation, economic change or labour issues may generate rapid change. In the last few years, the EFF party changed the political landscape drastically.

Ratings agency downgrades affected business confidence; the mining sector, and their suppliers, were hard hit by the slump in commodity prices and the tragedy at Marikana; and food prices shot up because of the drought in 2015 and 2016. Did you foresee any of these changes five years ago when you did your strategic plan

Many entrepreneurs did not adapt to unexpected circumstances and had to cut back drastically or close down. Many use the economy as the reason for not achieving targets, for retrenchments, for cutting off long-term suppliers and for business collapse.

The economy is indeed bad; it is tough to be in mining supplies when the mines lay off thousands, or importing goods with an unstable exchange rate, or any of the hard-hit sectors. Despite this, successful entrepreneurs know they must succeed in tough times as well as boom times.

Future rewards

If the past was turbulent, the future is likely to be even more so, with rapid and often unexpected changes that will affect businesses. We are sure there will be service delivery protests and strikes, we do not know when, where and of what severity. We can be certain of an uncertain economy but the effects are less predictable.

With these and other uncertainties, how should you ensure your business survives and prospers over the years ahead?

I suggest you start by getting out of your comfort zone. Explore new ways to build on your existing business model.

Ask yourself tough questions like:

  • Are we really a lean organisation or do we still cling to things we cannot let go of?
  • Is our sales force equipped to sell in the digital age where the buyer may know as much as the sales person?
  • Do we have a full digital marketing presence or just a website and some social media posts?
  • Do we really know who our competitors are and how to counter them?

Fix the ones where you see vulnerabilities. Lean companies adapt to change and tough times, remaining in your comfort zone can be fatal.

Relook your target markets and your sales channels. What changes are affecting your traditional target markets? Are there new growth areas you could focus on? Consider the opportunities offered by new channels, e-commerce, pop-up shops, apps and webinars. Do not get left behind.

Flexibility wins

Flexible organisations can react quickly to change, can get first mover advantage when new opportunities first appear, and can change direction when necessary. Being flexible means management has information that identifies new threats or opportunities and is able to decide on responses, while the company has systems to execute decisions promptly.

Simple things like the time taken to approve a campaign, hire a specialist, modify a product range or change parts of the structure are deeply embedded and may slow down reaction time. Building a flexible organisation takes effort but flexible companies have a huge advantage in a climate of change.

Buyers now routinely search the Internet for information about suppliers and products. They look beyond the technical detail for customer experiences, good or bad, for ratings and for references. Poor ratings or the absence of ratings will move you off the short list of many buyers. This means that excellent customer service is no longer a differentiator; it is expected. Paying attention to giving faultless service could be one of your best marketing tactics.

Do this

  • Get out of your comfort zone
  • Build on your existing business model
  • Learn to adapt to change.
Ed Hatton

Owner: The Marketing Director

Ed Hatton is the owner of The Marketing Director and has consulted to and mentored SMBs in strategy, marketing and sales for almost 20 years. He co-authored an entrepreneurship textbook and is passionate about helping entrepreneurs to succeed.
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