I think it was about 1975 when I was given my first Polaroid camera. As a kid, I was fascinated when, right before my eyes, a full color picture developed as it came into focus. A few of my friends at school had this cool mechanical wonder at home already, so I was not the trendsetter at Wellwood Elementary School, but I was still excited to at least be a part of the "in" crowd. The model I owned came with a rainbow strip down the middle and when I loaded the film into its rectangular front door it whizzed and whirled into action, spitting out pics as quickly as I could say, "Select, focus, shoot." It was incredible, and in the mid 70's it was more than just a novelty to have pictures develop so quickly, it was cutting edge and current.
Fast forward to today, iPhones and digital cameras take photos so life-like you feel like you are actually in the picture when you view them. Digital cameras that shoot fifty megapixel images create quality that never could have been created using Polaroid's technology from the 1970's. Just like the evolution of photography, business changes rapidly, drastically and ceaselessly. It may not be as obvious to you as the advances in photography, but some of the principles that you apply to your business might have you stuck in policies that were create years, if not decades ago. Inability to change, make adjustments and forecast are slowing you down, and what's worse, if you prolong this approach, you could also go the way of the Polaroid picture. It's time to shay shay shake your outdated policies, procedures and practices like a Polaroid picture. Here are a handful of ways to keep your business on track and focused on a future with positive results:
- Learn to embrace changes in technology, instead of running from it. Technology can deliver a powerful punch to any marketing and customer service plans that you have in place today. Failing to take advantage of social media, email marketing, on-line customer service and other trends in technology will greatly reduce your opportunity to market to the those with an eye on the future. Millennials (and many other markets) investigate, research and purchase online. Don't lose site of what is working for your business now, but certainly, do not ignore the shifting market you work with.
- Policies and procedures should be dynamic, not static. The best way to have active, living, breathing policies, procedures and practices is to empower those you work with (and those that work for you) to make decisions for your organization. When you hire the right people and empower them, they will take ownership of their decisions and will help your company grow beyond the old school philosophy of top down management.
- Stop looking at your competition. When you compare yourself to your competition, you become more like them. Pricing, practices and products should be your own. The services you offer become commodities when you are too similar to your competition. Become disruptive by offering a product or service that no one else offers or provide it in a way that completely changes the way your market sees your offering. Netflix didn't invent digital movies, but created a way to bring movies more affordably into your home. With 232 million monthly players, Zynga took the console out of video gaming and is single handedly changing the way people view online gaming entertainment.
- Focus on people not just products or services. Think you know best? Think again. Your customers are telling you what they like, dislike and want more/less of, you should listen to them. It's been proven over and over again, your customers are a walking billboard for the services you offer. For most companies that is a great thing, but you must be careful because if you don't listen to your customers or provide a less than stellar service, they will make sure all of their friends know exactly what your company is all about. As you are creating this magnificent experience keep in mind people like to deal with other human beings, not robot companies or impersonal machines like voicemail, generic email and spammers.
- Think to the future and get your head out of the past. Times have drastically changed, what worked before may not work again. Setting new goals is a great practice that will help you look beyond where you are today. When you write down your vision for your future you become focused on achieving your goals and far less distracted by the dozens of things trying to command your attention and derail you. The best way to stay motivated is to have a target you are shooting for.
As your business grows and evolves, stay focused on the things that are working right, but never lose sight of the future. Similar to Polaroid which focused too much on its past success rather than on the advances technology was making in photography, they soon became a thing of the past. Polaroid was too slow to react to the changing market conditions. Keep your head in the game, never let your present successes blind you. Continually grow, evolve and change and you will have a much better chance of developing into the picture perfect business..