Home Best Practices “There is nothing permanent except change.”

“There is nothing permanent except change.”

We’ve talked here previously about change (see . . . about the inevitability of it and about the need to adapt to it.  But since our previous talk about change, guess what’s happened!  Yep, everything has changed . . . our markets, our competitors, our banking relationships, our people, the technologies we use . . . all of it.  In fact, it would be tough to find anything in our businesses that is the same as it was a few years ago.  So it seems appropriate to revisit that topic.  If you agree, please continue reading below.

“There is nothing permanent except change.”

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher who lived some 2500 years ago, was apparently unfamiliar with death and taxes.  But he does demonstrate that change has been with us for a very long time, and is unlikely to fade anytime soon.  Admiral Hyman Rickover, father of the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarine program, once said, “At any moment during a 24 hour day, only one third of the people in the world are asleep.  The other two-thirds are awake and creating problems.”  A man of fewer words might have simply said, “Change is inevitable.”  Of course, he was looking at change from a military perspective, but the perspective from a business point of view is no different.

The problem is, the most difficult changes we have to face are those triggered by outside forces we can’t control such as new government rules or regulations, new disruptive technologies, or a new competitive landscape.  Of course, there are internally generated changes too, such as opening new markets or introducing new products or services.  But those are changes over which we have some degree of control.  We can manage them.  We can decide when, where, and how many resources to invest.  Outside changes are different.  They are thrust upon us and all we can do is react.

It’s not fair, is it?  I mean, we just got our apple cart all loaded up with apples and we were rolling down the road, when WHAM!  Somebody knocks it over.  Apples are scattered all over the place.  And it’s not like it was us, not like it was our fault.  We didn’t knock it over.  It was one of those other guys . . . one of those guys someplace out there.  No, definitely not fair.  If this was the NFL, the refs would be calling a penalty on that other guy.

But this isn’t the NFL, and the only penalties involved are assessed by the marketplace against those players who fail to respond to change quickly and appropriately.

So what do we do about change, particularly when it’s generated by outside forces beyond our control?

First and foremost, stay vigilant.  Keep abreast of trends in your industry and your marketplace.  The further out on the horizon you can spot changes coming, the more time you’ll have to prepare.  And don’t watch out for only yourself.  Changes that directly impact your vendors and suppliers will quickly find their way to your door too.  Likewise for your customers.  And don’t forget your customer’s customer and your customer’s suppliers.  Even though they are two steps removed from you, changes to their businesses will set off a chain reaction that will eventually reach you.  So you really need to keep an eye on everybody who can directly or indirectly impact your business.

Second, as a marketing professor of mine used to say, “Love the market, don’t fight it.”  When changes come along, we may be tempted to resist them in an attempt to preserve as much of our old business model as possible.  That’s a fool’s errand.  General Electric isn’t big enough to buck a market trend, so neither are you.  You will be better served by trying to see the big picture of where the market is going, and then figuring out how to get on board with it.

Finally, whenever there is great change, there is great opportunity.  Look for it.  Be creative.  Be the guy who, upon seeing a pile of manure, starts looking for the pony.

Because things aren’t the way they were, things can’t stay the way they are.  As Heraclitus tells us, change is a permanent fixture of life, so you may as well embrace it.  Build a competitive advantage out of your ability to deal with change more efficiently and more effectively than anyone else.  The alternative is to let the world change without you which, let’s face it, is a prescription for going out of business.

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