The One Thing You Need to Keep Your Business Relevant

California's large highways represent the flexibility you'd want in your venture.

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By Jeff Boss • Apr 4, 2014 Originally published Apr 4, 2014

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If there is one thing that kills creativity and innovation, it's routine. Layering process upon process upon process squeezes about enough creative juice out of people as an assembly line.

In today's day and age, entrepreneurs can't afford the mindlessness associated with bureaucracy -- or the obsession with efficiency, for that matter. Employees need to be able to think on their feet, contribute and create the right workplace that wields the right product.

Related: Challenge Assumptions. Don't Be Afraid of Taking a Different Tack.

To stay relevant in today's marketplace takes something that most companies fear, yet all experience at some point in their existence if they want to stay competitive: change. Lasting change stems from a willingness to change and keep changing, because the forces that drive change never stop -- they are always there and always testing the walls of your entrepreneurial fortress.

Change isn't a one-time event. There is no single organizational overhaul that allows a company to suddenly be competitive forever.

Instead, change is ongoing -- a way of life much like learning. Transitioning from special operations into business has been eye opening for me for the simple fact that change and adaptability in the military were daily events -- it was just something we did. No two days were ever the same, because if we didn't adapt, if we didn't learn from the mistakes of yesterday and apply them to today, then we ran the risk of the enemy changing themselves first and thus making us obsolete. A willingness to change is what allows you to stay relevant in today's business world and avoid becoming yesterday's news headline. To change is to improve.

Related: When It Comes to Change, Being Small Is Enviable

I like to compare an entrepreneur's mindset and the structure of his or her business with that of a freeway -- a huge, California-like, ridiculously wide eight-lane highway. Serving as the brains behind the entrepreneurial brawn, you -- being the genius you are -- know you must take yourself (i.e. your business) from point A to point B along the highway if you want to get it off the ground and start raking in the dough. How you get there is up to you and your own creative ingenuity. You can change lanes, speed up, slow down or take the next exit, but given the guardrails on either side, you know you must operate within certain constraints and travel in one general direction. Remember, this is a VERY wide highway so there are pockets of traffic -- some faster, others slower -- that offer you options, just as in the marketplace.

Here's the opposite situation. You're on a two-lane highway stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic because construction ahead has backed up everything. No way out. No upcoming exits to take for alternate routes. You are stuck in process (represented by all the cars ahead of you), there is nothing you can do about it, and you just want to scream. There is no room to maneuver (i.e. innovate) because the construction -- or infrastructure -- slows down progress.

The highway, in the first example, symbolizes innovation -- the creative process of moving your business forward from startup to success. You can restructure, release a new product, conduct an acquisition, you name it -- without layers of process bogging down you or any other "driver." The takeaway here is that too much process buries the ability and willingness for people to innovate, change and adapt.

The point of this metaphorical story is that when you, as an entrepreneur, begin to structure your future best-selling business, consider structuring it for change. Adapt and re-adapt for purpose to avoid becoming obsolete -- that's the only way to stay relevant in today's global environment.

Related: The SEALs' Guide to Planning for Failure

Jeff Boss

Leadership Team Coach, Author, Speaker

Jeff Boss is the author of two books, team leadership coach and former 13-year Navy SEAL where his top awards included four Bronze Stars with valor and two Purple Hearts. Visit him online at

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