Saturday, September 15, 2018

Time for Change

“The only thing that is constant is change.” – Heraclitus

Things are not the same today as they were yesterday, very different than they were a few years ago, and entirely different than they were decades ago. Our world, communities, and culture are changing fast, and with them our businesses must change too.

I’m not talking strictly technological or strictly procedural. No, the change we’re caught up in is a matrix: an intricate pattern woven together from strands representing every facet of our business environment, each evolving in its own right as time marches on.

Never before have the mores around us been so questioned. “Why is this the way it is?” “Why do we do this the way we do?” “Where did this practice come from, and why is it necessary today?” We’re in the middle of a reevaluation renaissance.

Einstein famously said, “Question everything.” He also said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” It’s time for change.

I have a new team member starting next week—someone who spent many years, many years ago, working by my side in a similar business. She’s incredibly quick and will be up to speed in no time, but through her update process I’ve been reflecting on all the changes that I’ve seen since she and I last worked together.

Most noticeably, our systems have been revolutionized. Many of the ways we keep records, generate reports, and process clients are new. The way we market to our communities is quite different, now focusing on creating bonds through social posts and interaction. And the majority of the audience to whom we now market have needs and points of view entirely different than those of the generations before them, so we shift our offerings, adjust our services, and adapt to meet the demands of the new market.

The way we communicate has matured from traditional phone calls and the occasional email to a myriad of messaging platforms, putting access to our clients literally at our fingertips, and their access to us just as handy. The on-demand world we now live in has challenged us to show up, putting our best face forward no matter where we are.

Many of our newer profit centers are ones that would never have entered our imaginations a few years ago, and many of the ones that were our primary focus back then have all but died out. Some of the products we sell are inventions of just the past couple of years, and some of the products we sold just a few seasons past are now obsolete.

At times, big shifts in technology and policy irreversibly transform the market. When that change happens fast, as it often does, our human nature causes us to mourn the loss of consumer demand for what we traditionally considered to be a core strength. We saw a dramatic example of this when the world went digital and our clients moved toward doing things themselves through online means. We cried for years about that perceived loss, but once we dried our eyes enough to see clearly, we realized that in that change existed fresh opportunities. We had to transition our business models to adapt and grow in the new climate, and it wasn’t easy. But we did it. And now our mix of services has made us much more diversified, and therefore more resilient

I was listening to someone very wise speak the other day. They were addressing a situation in an organization where it seemed like a lot of progress had been made to bring the group into a new, more positive era of growth, but then leadership shifted, new programs were cut back, and the progress they had made seemed as if it had all fallen apart. They remarked that sometimes, when we take a step back, it only serves to build momentum for the next giant leap forward.

If you’ve had a setback, use it as an opportunity to build momentum for that next big step. Be stubborn and refuse to give up without a fight. Throughout history, some of the most amazing and inspirational stories, inventions, and innovations have come as a direct result of what was initially thought of as a setback. I can attest to this personally, much stronger now because of fighting through challenges that could very well have taken me down had I not been so stubborn.

If you’ve felt stuck, maybe it’s because you’re carrying too much weight. Get out of the driver’s seat for a moment and look at the situation from a new vantage point. Maybe you need to unload some unnecessary baggage, or maybe you need to rock back and forth a few times to create wiggle room and build fresh momentum to get unstuck.

If you’re struggling to adapt to changes that have come so rapidly in recent years, months, and even weeks, don’t lose faith. And don’t lose your footing. Take a breath, reevaluate, and reinvent. You’re never too old or too established to adapt.

Change is happening whether we like or not; it’s happening whether we’re ready or not. It can zip right by and leave us in the dust or it can catch us in its wings and carry us to brand new heights.


Originally published in MBC Today Volume 20, Issue 2, on March 15, 2018. Also published on the AMBC blog on September 15, 2018.