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The answer to this question seems clear. Of course you would change. The thought that obstacles would not occur in life or business is an unreal idea.  Ask yourself, “can I handle obstacles?” Again we go back to, “what would you do if you knew your couldn’t fail.” Lina Sanchez talks about it in her article in the Gwennett Network. We have no choice in life but to handle obstacles; even if we “don’t handle them” we’re handling them!

Companies often wait too long to change. As Eastman Kodak files for bankruptcy, the 131 year old company, with a great formula but one that couldn’t change quick enough. Who can forget the Kodak name,  the leader of inexpensive cameras? What we don’t know about Kodak is that  the company’s own researchers had invented the first digital camera way back in 1976. This put Kodak in a position where they could have dominated the industry and owning every category of cameras, printers, inks and more. Unfortunately it never happened. It’s been said that the Kodak leaders couldn’t imagine a world where pictures weren’t shot on film. This company had the technology but not the vision on how to use it. Kodak believed in saving family memories by capturing them on film–they were way ahead of the social media revolution. (If you’ve not seen this video on the social media revolution this will be an eye opener!)

 Nokia is another company that failed to act despite the fact that they had created a formula for a tablet-shaped handset.  They just couldn’t execute the plan. (The Harvard Business Review, November 2011 has many great articles on companies that couldn’t change.)

 Being a leader means understanding when things change in the environment, such as in our present economy the business has to change . Unfortunately making changes in one’s business because of environmental changes is very reactive and  good leadership should be proactive not reactive. As we see, some companies such as Neihaus Companies (which I featured in my last blog) are flourishing in this economy, why, because they have a  plan and have stuck to it. Having a plan doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible in fact being flexible and giving yourself “wiggle room” should be part of your plan.

 Here are 5 ways that you can help your business and your life be proactive.

1. Don’t wait for things to happen. Build your business on sound principles, and prepare today for the future. If you’re planning for an eventual new roof, prepare for changes in the economy and that your ideas may need to  be replaced. This leads to changes in your  differentiation and reviewing your competitive advantage. (Your customers can help you with this.)

2. Stop running in crises mode. If you are constantly reacting, stop and look at what you’re not seeing. Why would you let yourself get in this position? Being in constant crisis mode causes stress which can eventually lead to a serious disease for you and your business. Remember if you’re losing money you can’t make it up in volume.

3. I know this is old stuff but start goal setting and goal planning and hold yourself accountable. This should be done yearly not every 10 years.

4.  Include your major customers in your goal setting. Have someone interview them to find out their business challenges. How can you plan for your business without  information from your customers? How can you upgrade  your customer service unless you know what your customers want? I have done this with dozens of companies that are sure they know what their customers want and after the survey are amazed at what they don’t know. Learning from your customers will help your business stay ahead of your competitors.

5. Prepare for changes in the world. Globalization has changed how companies do business, what type of business they will do  and where they will do business.

When I write these type of posts I begin to think about my own life–did I plan for the roof?

Sorry about Eastman Kodak; they will be missed.

Lisbeth Calandrino is a business coach and speaker. Her book Red Hot Customer Service is used by many companies to improve their customer service business.

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