There are no guarantees in life, and certainly less in business.
When making a radical change is necessary for your business to survive, the risk of failure is still significant.
So how can you mitigate risks, and soften the landing when you make that giant leap off of the proverbial cliff?
Over the past 15 years, we have reinvented our business, scrapped old products and made expensive investments in newer ones, without cash on hand.
We were a self-funded technology company, operating on a limited budget, leaving no room for failure.
Every decision we made, right or wrong, was the difference between open or closed doors. Through that process, I can now identify several critical elements needed to ensure a safe landing when you innovate or reinvent your venture.
Starting with clear direction, business owners need a strategic plan, a well-balanced team, and clients that trust you.
Direction and Plan
No one sets out to be a one-hit wonder. You want your “jump off the cliff” to wreak substantial, long-term rewards for your company. To do so, you need to identify and understand the strengths and weaknesses of your last venture/product and the marketplace itself. Provided you make a realistic and honest assessment of yourself and your company, your past experience can be the best teacher.
It can help you to not only define the market opportunities ahead of you but also predict how your new venture/product will fulfill them. There is no room in business for knee-jerk reactions to one-up situations. By performing a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) or something similar, you can ensure that your new venture, your radical change, will have a long-term upside.
With all of their vision and genius, even Bill Gates and Steve Jobs had a strong team of engineers and marketers behind them. When innovation is on the horizon, you must assemble a balanced team that covers all of the required disciplines needed for a company to succeed and grow. Even if you are a sole entrepreneur, your new venture will require expertise not only for your product but in finance, marketing and sales, as well.
It’s a no brainer that every business needs paying clients in order to succeed, but your clients are not merely a source of revenue. They can be your best research, partner and advocate as you approach the jump zone. Engage clients before, during and after your transition to ensure they continue to trust your ability and expertise, and stand by you in your new endeavor.
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It’s not uncommon that a radical shift in business is precipitated by a loss of clients. The loss could have been from an existing client (always painful) or a new business pitch. Paying clients are a much better source of market research than a paid focus group or pricey consulting company white paper because they have a monetary stake in your product or service. They fundamentally know what their priorities are, and what they are willing to pay for them.
Clients are an invaluable resource, and you don’t need to pay out of pocket for the point of view. Use their experience and feedback to make a better product. They will offer it up readily, so ask for their opinions, especially if you’ve lost their business. From those interactions, you will get a clear idea of what you need to change, and subsequently, what you need to build if you want to succeed in the future.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes time to get a new product to market. During that time, let your clients know that you are executing based on their insights and building something new to better serve them. For one, it’s flattering, but it will also give them a sense of ownership over your new venture. You should continue to nurture such relationships. Don’t leave your clients in the dark.
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By including clients in your new venture, you are making them a stakeholder. There is no greater form of flattery or just business common sense. Go back to your clients and let them know that you valued their opinion, took their needs to heart, executed, and delivered a new service for their benefit.
If you’ve successfully kept the lines of communication open all along, you’re not cold calling out of the blue to let them know. Instead, they will, at the very least, be curious as to what you’ve built, which can increase sales leads for your new venture.
Change is difficult, and every venture has risks before, during and after you jump the proverbial cliff. But with strategic planning, a disciplined organizational structure, and a few noble clients, you can warrant a soft landing when making such a significant change.