Business owners share their tips for coping with change
To succeed and often survive, businesses need to change over time. If the aim is to grow your empire, you may need to hire more employees, expand your product offering or even open a franchise. If a business venture doesn't pan out the way you expect, you may have to switch tactics just to keep your business afloat. Research from Direct Line for Business shows that a third of UK SMEs grow and contract throughout the year to keep up with market pressures.*
Being able to adapt is part of what makes a successful business owner, but no matter how flexible your business model, dealing with change can be stressful. We spoke to five female entrepreneurs to find out their tips for coping with periods of change.
1. Test the market before finalising your product
By continuously testing and redeveloping her product early on, Carrie Swift, founder of Love Public Speaking, was able to carve out a niche in the training and development industry – they now sell pitch training to agencies.
"Like many entrepreneurs, I failed to follow rule number 1 of starting a business – keep it 'lean'. I invested too much time and effort in the first version of my product and website, and spent money marketing products before I had tested them properly, only to have to change them later after I learnt what the market wanted.
My advice would be not to invest too much before taking your product to market. It's important to be agile; you have to be brave enough to put stuff out there, see if it works and, if it doesn't, change it or try something new.
If you've already invested in a venture and it doesn't work out, there may be a temptation to throw more money at it until it does. Know when to quit - if a certain idea isn't working, be prepared to let it go so you have the space to develop new ideas that do work."
2. Learn from your mistakes
Kim Spooner, co-founder of Henry Fix Painting & Decorating, had to make some big changes to keep her business going after the first year. However, learning from past mistakes and remaining resilient enabled her to bring her business back to its feet again.
"When we started our business we very much went with the flow. Fuelled by adrenaline and excitement of the challenge, we rolled with the punches. That honeymoon lasted about a year.
We recruited the wrong people and managed them badly. We were scared to make bold decisions and hoped things would get better. The result? Money poured out of the business while we paid people whose output was not positively impacting our profits.
We were close to crumbling, but we fought on. We downsized and licked our wounds. With the benefit of hindsight, we spent time speaking to others who had both succeeded and failed in business, soaking up all the information we could.
A few years on, we are growing again and now have the best team, with two young apprentices who are keen, loyal, switched-on and fully supported by us and our new-found coaching/leadership skills."
3. Embrace change when it's unexpected
Sometimes you may be forced to make changes due to external factors that are outside of your control. If your new situation isn't something you've prepared for, it can be easy to view the change as extra work and stress that you don't need.
Samantha Acton, Director of Domestic Angels Franchising, believes that the key to dealing with these types of challenges is to "embrace the change as evolution and search for the advantage and opportunity". She uses GDPR as an example of when businesses were forced to make positive changes.
"We adopted a mindset that GDPR was all about ensuring we did a great job for our customers. For us, we weren't implementing GDPR, we were enhancing our customer service, which is very important to us.
Once GDPR was framed in this context, it prompted us to ask what more we could do along these lines, how we could do this with minimal disruption to our customers and what benefits we were creating for our customers."
4. Get your staff on board
Change, even when made for the benefit of the business, can often be unsettling for employees. Caroline Sparks, co-founder of Turtle Tots, believes that "the key to introducing any change into a business is preparation and communication."
"Find out how your colleagues and employees feel about the change before it happens. Then you can reassure them about any concerns they have and can help them understand the reasons for the change, and the benefits.
It can be useful to prepare FAQ's for colleagues to digest. Inevitably, sometimes change will not be well received and it's important to prepare for those responses.
In 2017, we recruited a Managing Director to continue the fast growth of Turtle Tots. The key to introducing the new role to our licensees and staff was communication, reassurance and excitement! Shortly after our MD's induction, meetings with every licensee were arranged. This allowed licensees to verbalise any concerns they had, and for those concerns to be alleviated."
5. Think about the future
Krishma Vaghela, Franchise and Business Development Consultant at Franchise Futures, believes that business owners should actively identify when changes should be made rather than waiting for moments where change is required.
"As a business owner, you must look to the future of your business and ensure that your business model is sustainable and competitive. You must give your customers/clients what they want, when they want it. Buying behaviour has changed, people want convenience and ease of purchase and many buy through recommendations. Plan ahead and action the necessary changes."
* Consumer omnibus research completed amongst 505 UK SME decision makers between 28th June and 3rd July 2018
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