In the movie You’ve Got Mail, starring Tom hanks and Meg Ryan, two rival bookshops go head to head. A mega bookstore Fox Books owned by Tom Hanks’ family, moves into a small town threatening the -existence of an independent bookshop run by Meg Ryan and aptly named ‘The Shop Around The Corner’. A bitter war ensues with Meg Ryan embarking on a media campaign to gain support for her store. Despite her efforts, her store slowly goes under, unable to compete with lower prices and cafe lattes. Simultaneously, the rivals had inadvertently begun an online courtship unaware of their true identities. During one of their email exchanges, Meg Ryan is moaning about what to do regarding a business issue she was having. And there is a profound moment when Tom Hanks says to her, ‘You’re at war. It’s not personal, it’s businesses.
So is it business or personal for you?
Are you more into the history, passion and ideals of your business or are you looking after the bottom line? Can you blend the two or does one take a lesser priority? Whatever you decide, you must never forget that a business has longevity when there is a demand for your product. Every business owner must find away to maintain integrity AND make money. Any other thing is a hobby. In the current economic climate, we might have to make some difficult decisions to enable us to survive.
A reinvention may be partial or total; whatever you decide there must be a commitment to change and move towards the direction of that change. A paradigm shift needs to take place mentally before actions can follow. Decide if this is the direction you want to take your business to. A high end restaurant may decide it will offer a lunch time package and close evenings since custom is dwindling. Another restaurant may decide to change entirely from Italian cuisine to fast food takeaway only. Your choice will also be influenced by how much money, time, responsibilities, etc that you may have. In essence, at the core of the decision, is whether or not you are ready to discover a new market to launch into.
To be in a position to embark on a reinvention, the right knowledge is absolutely crucial.
You must know everything about your industry. Who are the experts? Who is your competition? What are the standards? What are the changes to the standards? What are the trends? Who is leaving the industry and why? What are the substitutes to your product or services? Who are the new players? What’s their unique selling point? Is your unique selling point easily replicated? What next is going to happen in the industry? Your eyes must constantly be on the industry, your market and your customer base (current and potential). In this regard, your passion must be unleashed. It’s the difference between an amateur and a professional. This knowledge simply places you in the position for change. Without it, you are a spectator in your field. Without it, you are not in the best position to judge what direction to go.
If you are going down the reinvention route, then it has to be about what people want.
Now is the time to keep your ears close to ground. Networking is a great way to see what other businesses are going through and glean from their experience. It is also worthwhile because some businesses already have an insight into what customers want. Speaking to someone may just trigger an idea for a new market. Engage with your current customers; find out why they are disgruntled or not spending. Speak to your friends and strangers; find out their needs. If you can give people what they want, and top that with what they don’t even know they need yet, you’re on to an exciting journey.
Where do you start?
There are a number of ways in which you can reinvent your business. Below are a few suggestions worth exploring:
- Niche vs. Mass: Consider if your product can be tailored for a niche market or if you need to add on a product that appeals to the mass market. Sometimes, your target market might just be so limited that you’ll need to consider whether it’s a lucrative or not. Conversely, your product may not have enough of a unique selling point within a mass market or the market you operate in may simply be saturated. This might present an opportunity to differentiate your offering by appealing to the needs of a niche market.
- Target Non-Customers: Are there other markets you haven’t considered previously that could benefit from the use of your product or service? Explore this option and you might be able to find a couple more new markets for your products. Sometimes, opportunities arise in the most unlikely places. Keep an open mind.
- Retail vs. Trade: Flexibility is a core skill required for any business. The ability to go where there is a demand as opposed to sticking to your business plan is quite essential. Your business plan doesn’t have to be cast in stone; as you go along, it can be amended. You might have started out in retail, however in reality you may stand to gain more by offering it to retail outlets at a wholesale price. Many a team on The Apprentice failed to recognise whether the demand was in retail or wholesale at their peril.
- Online and Store Retail: You might have been trading only online all this while. Perhaps now is the perfect timing to explore opportunities to retail face to face. From farmers markets to a shop there are many ways in which you get your product to a new set of customers. After over a hundred years of trading, Fenwick started trading online this year; proving that there are gains to be made from trading online AND in-store.
- Product and Service: The businesses that succeed are those who add value to the customer. Better still, they are those who meet a need that the customer didn’t even know they needed. Exploring the services that could complement your product and vice versa could simply take your business up another level.
- New Product, New Industry: This would be a total reinvention. You are ready to start all over again and do something new. The experience of running your previous business will come in handy and help you make better choices. Go for it!
Whether you choose a total reinvention or a partial one, the key is to keep an open mind and explore where the demand may be.