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Is It Me or Is it Change?

February 4, 2013 - Ernest Hohmeyer
When we were younger, we worried about inexperience.

As we get older, we fret about being out of touch.

I believe we have all come to accept that change is inevitable and seems to be occurring more rapidly than ever.

Affecting all walks of life

We hear about changes that affected layoffs in our hospitals, climate change that we can see right before our eyes and how the internet is creating a new form of on-line community that may be replacing the traditional neighborhood. Is our address becoming more of an e-mail locality than our street number?

What About Change?

Is it always good to change? Or is the real question: Do we know what types of change are occurring as we debate the future of our communities and businesses and do we know how to deal with it?

In today’s world of on-line reviews, do we seem to offer our opinions instead of asking real questions? As I work with my son on his schoolwork, I know that answering a question requires work sometimes or maybe it is too easy to click than to think.

Regardless, we don’t seem to ask questions like we used to at a time when change may demand it.

What is the Plan?

Maybe that is why I never liked the word business “plan.” It is all about “here is what I am going to do.”

That attitude sometimes carries over to how we run our business or community.

After all, customers and voters want to know what you have to offer. But do we get too lost in “branding” and “platforms”? And of course once we say something in public, well, then we are really committed.

Is not a good plan about first asking questions and perhaps this is the most difficult aspect: keep an open mind?

Why is it that once we open our business, we sometimes stop asking the same questions that wrecked our brain before we started? What is the need? Are there enough customers? How do I reach them the best?

Perhaps it is difficult to change once you are committed.

We go along until one day we realize, business as usual is not the same as it used to be.

Our first reaction may be it is a marketing problem.

If change is occurring, it may not only affect your marketing. A key aspect of marketing is its role as an outgrowth of what need you are trying to fulfill and therefore what products or services best meets that demand.

Perhaps there needs to the “10 Commandments of Questions” hanging on the wall. We start each day by asking ourselves key questions appropriate to our businesses and we try to do this before we jump on to Facebook , e-mail or the daily frenzy of texting. Here are some samples:

Question #1: Today, what is the real customer need(s) I am trying to fulfill?

Question #2: Are we still the most appropriate one to fulfill those needs? Who out there can also do this? What are they doing? What is your edge?

Question #3: What is the real mission of my business or organization? Do "mission statements" always need to be these paragraph long statements? In the world of tweet is this going to work? They say you have 10 seconds and 10 words to explain what you do, otherwise folks are moving on…

#4: Ask your customer what your mission is? If they break 10 seconds and 10-15 words could that impact your "brand" identity?

#5: How do changing needs compare with the mission? Is it still relevant?

#6: Are needs changing? How, why?

#7: What is the trend of those needs? Getting the feeling that needs are changing is only part of the question. Understanding where they are going is perhaps another real question.

#8: Who exactly has these needs? You should be able to profile your key customers. Age, gender, where they are from, income bracket and their "likes." Ask your staff to do the same.

#9 What can I do today to prepare for tomorrow? It is today already. We have to open our shop, clean, or go to meetings. Part of our day may be to ask how I can make the greatest difference in meeting those needs tomorrow. Should each day be part work and part planning?

#10 Have I done the basics? We all look for the silver bullet. D we spend too many hours searching for that one product or marketing strategy that will create a world-wide rave? For most of our small businesses it is unfortunately the small things that can make a difference.

Forgetting about the Basics? Are we pumping too much information out there worried about staying on top of search engines where our content is more about key words than about what needs we are seeking to address?

Did we spend enough time today: • Asking customers what they want? • Actually reaching out to target customers with a specific message? • Tracking trends whose story can also be found in your monthly financials?

Monitoring Change We often look at change when growth in revenue stalls – whether it is tax revenues or sales. Our first reaction is what are we doing wrong? What changed? If we get into the habit of asking fundamental questions appropriate to your business each day, you may be able to at least partially detect the winds of change before they become a tornado.

We can’t hide from change and change does not always mean doing making wholesale changes. Just like there may be no silver bullet that can grow revenue overnight, it may sometimes be a matter of staying on top of it where a small tweaking can make a big difference.

Creating a Culture for Change? Preparing for change may be more about creating an organizational culture - from the top down. These may include being open to new perspectives and setting up systems to monitor it. Change may affect your customer, operations and financials.

You may not always be able to control change but you may be in a better position to deal with it if you try to understand it.

It may start by asking questions.


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