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Adapt or Die! React to Market Changes before They Force Change on You.

Entrepreneur must change and evolve
Once before a recent Christmas, I was listening to a news report about how "Cyber Monday" was expected to just "blow the doors" off of the prior years' and that year's forecasted holiday shopping dollar volume (and, of course, it did).

Juxtaposed with that report was that of a couple of small business owners who were whining during an interview about how the internet was just killing their business and how they would probably close after the holiday season.

Now let's see.
Do you think they just woke up that morning and came to that realization?
That is not the case. The internet as a retail presence has been around for more than ten years and "Cyber Monday" as a retail force for five. So did these small retailers just figure they would go away as a competitive threat, even after seeing volume dramatically increasing, year after year?

The signs were there. They simply chose to ignore them. And now, it might be too late. They may have become dinosaurs!

Unfortunately, too few entrepreneurs pay enough attention to what is going on in and around their market, what may be coming, and what outside influences (like the internet was in the late 90s) might impact their business, dramatically, in the future. Successful companies litter the landscape who, like the dinosaur, did not pay attention and then, could not adapt.

Blockbuster didn't adapt they died

An example of a business that did not adapt, they died

How about Blockbuster? It took them too long to recognize that the future was in downloading movies and that their brick and mortar and DVD rental model was going to be outdated.

Another would be Research in Motion (RIM) and their Blackberry. They owned the PDA/Smartphone market (at one point more than 75%) but with a very narrow viewpoint of where that market was going.

Then along came Apple's iPhone and Google's Android operating system and, over a couple of years, the mobile phone was a personal communication device with millions of applications available for it.

And the Blackberry is struggling for not just market share (now less than 15%) but for relevance. (Update: I wrote a blog analyzing "Losing the signal," the rise and fall of Blackberry, a novel written by written by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff.)

Blackberry is a familiar story for many small businesses, where market forces change, or significant competitors enter, or both.

But, typically, it doesn't happen overnight. There's usually plenty of advanced warning of the changes or new entries. Time enough to watch and study how these changes might impact an entrepreneur's business model.

Then determine that if things appear to be drastically changing for the future, a new strategy is going to be necessary to compete and maybe, to survive. That might entail, even "reinventing the company."

Apple (Steve Jobs) adapted to become a consumer electronics products company)

The best example, today for a company that re-invented itself has to be Apple.

By the late 70s, it had engineered one of the first commercially available lines of personal computers. By the early-to-mid 80s, it owned that market.

Then, it ignored and underestimated the changes going on all around it (PC clones, the spread of Windows applications, etc.) and proceeded to become an "also ran" used by educators and a cult of loyal users.

Steve Jobs returned to Apple. It re-invented itself as a consumer digital products company, transforming music, mobile phones, and personal computing, along the way.

Now, as a small business owner, facing significant market changes or competitor inroads, you aren't (and probably don't have a) Steve Jobs.

Nor do you have the resources of an Apple. However, that doesn't mean you can't "think different." Not just outside the box, but inside it as well.
We're often so busy thinking outside the box, we miss what is right in front of us

Ways you can stay ahead of market changes

Look to where are you most vulnerable, be that in a particular market segment, product feature/function or product delivery/support. Determine, initially, how can you fortify that area (develop plans to protect).

At the same time, think of ways you can "change the rules" - find new methods to package or price your product that is way different than the market is used to. Maybe deliver it in ways or with services, no one has done before.

As an example, how about those whining retailers? What could they have done over the last 5-10 years to have altered their vulnerability?

Maybe they could have established an internet presence. Maybe they could have changed the focus of their business, becoming much more specialized with a tighter niche they could own, or offering a service or support level not seen in their market segment, previously. They could have done many things to survive...except nothing.

Know that you will, at some point, face market disruption. Whatever you do, stay vigilant. Be aware of market changes and competitive inroads and react to them BEFORE they become major threats to your customer base and your revenue.

"The Entrepreneur's Yoda knows these things. He's been there. May Success be with you!

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