Change: How to navigate the good and bad

Chris Reddin
Chris Reddin

Change in business, when it’s positive, normally means business growth.

As the economy eases its way out of recession, many businesses are starting to grow again.  Most people focus only on the rosy aspects of business growth: new customers, more sales and an easing of cash flow constraints. Yet, there also are challenges: time pressure, feeling overwhelmed and overworked, loss of control, quality or consistency issues and the need to make changes in operations and staffing.

Change causes all sorts of stress, challenges, disruption and just general chaos. You have to take the bad with the good, so here are some suggestions for how to navigate change successfully.

On the rosy side, change can mean new markets, new customers and more sales.

In their book “Switch,” Chip and Dan Heath write about making positive changes by figuring out what’s working and doing more of that. They call it “finding the bright spots.” This makes a lot of sense for a business growth perspective. Figure out what’s going right — where sales are growing, for what products and with what customers — and devote your time, energy and focus to those efforts.

Business growth means something in the market has changed. Either your existing customers want more or you’ve found new customers. It’s great to see revenue figures climbing, but you better know what’s really behind it if you want to maintain growth.

Are you gaining sales because customers have needs and see your company as the only solution or because you’re doing a great job delivering on their needs? From a new business perspective, growing market segments with poor customer satisfaction provide a ripe opportunity for a new venture to jump in and snatch up market share. For established businesses, the challenge is to make sure you don’t leave a door open for new competitors. Take the time to understand the causes of change so you can adjust and adapt appropriately.

On the challenges side of business growth, there’s no easy way around them.

Common challenges with business growth include: staff feel disconnected and unaware of what others are doing, the team lacks an understanding of the firm’s ultimate goals, product quality fluctuates, there’s personnel turnover and company leaders are exhausted because they still feel they need to be personally involved with every sale.

Sound familiar? These are common symptoms and the solution isn’t simple.

  Business growth means the business has changed and in many ways it must be run differently. It’s time to put some careful thought and energy into leadership, delegation and company culture. Growth provides a great opportunity to move the company into a new structure that better serves everyone’s needs.  In this case, change means it ‘s time for still more change.

As much as change means you’re super busy, it’s also a really important time to step away from the business and make sure you’re not getting buried in the rigors of daily operations.

Spend time outside the business visiting with customers, networking with your peers and staying connected with your community. Don’t get lost in all the details that pile up on your desk. You need the big picture perspective to effectively manage change.

All this stress will invite everyone in your business to ask that critical question: “Why are we doing this?”  Crafting a vision for what you want the company to do is the most important element to navigating times of great change.

Decide what you want the business to be and what role you want it to play. Make it bold and inspirational.

Back in 1980, when computers were expensive toys for geeks, Bill Gates created a vision for Microsoft: “A computer on every desk and in every home.”  At the time that seemed audacious, but the goal kept his team focused on creating software for practical home and office use.

Moreover, it worked.

A vision for where you want the company to go will help make the long work hours seem worthwhile and keep your team moving forward though all the changes to come.