What have Nescafe, David Bowie, Kodak, Madonna and British Airways got to do with SME owners? They can all teach you valuable lessons about future-proofing your business.
Some are shining examples of how to re-invent your offering to stay at the top. Others fell behind, and you can learn from their mistakes.
Until his sad and untimely demise, David Bowie was the king of reinvention – he wasn’t known as the Chameleon of Pop for nothing. What remained consistent was the quality of his output, and his understanding that he needed others – producers, musicians, publicists – to help him embrace new directions. Similarly, Madonna has approached her career as a business since the beginning, and has never been afraid to bring new, fresh talent on board to help her stay relevant.
Nescafe recognised that home consumption of coffee was falling, despite high-street coffee shops seeing huge success. Rather than compete in this new area, it brought out the Nespresso machine to allow a new generation of coffee lovers to make their own high-quality drinks at home.
Companies such as British Airways and Kodak weren’t as quick to adapt or bring in new talent, and saw huge losses as a result. British Airways initially dismissed the threat of budget airlines, wrongly assuming its own offering was so different as to not to be threatened. But it failed to predict a new era in travel, was damaged as a result and had to work hard to begin to differentiate and protect its bottom line.
Kodak – with a century of leading the sales of cameras and film under its belt – even invented digital photography, but failed to allow for its huge growth. It was caught short, and was on the brink of collapse when it was forced to sell many of its assets and restructure to focus on a business market.
One thing these super brands have, that SMEs don’t have the luxury of, is whole departments paid to research and predict trends. But with lives increasingly lived out online, there’s a rich stream of free resources to be mined if you do not accept the limits of your own talents and get creative when it comes to hiring and partnering.
When you’re adding to your team, ask candidates or potential partners what other skills they can bring to the table. You may be limited to a small team, but its members can boast a range of talents that go way beyond what you produce or sell. The digital age means there’s a new generation of employees who instinctively know so much more than what they’re trained for.
A couple of decades ago, computer skills were the preserve of the specialist, now some toddlers can use iPads before they can talk. We no longer need to spend hundreds of pounds on social media seminars to learn how to engage online – just ask anyone born after 1990.
Bringing in people or working collaboratively with people or organisations who have skills you don’t isn’t a weakness – it’s the sign of an astute business operator who knows exactly how to stay one step ahead of the game. And it’s a tactic that stars with real staying power like David Bowie were dab hands at applying.
By Derek Irvine, Small Business Consultant, Business Doctors