As leaders, we took an unwritten and invisible oath to perpetuate our enterprises because of the benefits it brings to our communities, our causes, our family, and, most importantly, those who work for us. To do this, it is imperative that we ask ourselves: are we still a viable product? A viable company? Are we relevant? When we see or feel that our relevance is being challenged, it’s time to start asking some serious questions:
- Are we ready to adapt and overcome?
- Ready to hit the reset switch?
- Kill the sacred cows?
- Find new levels of energy
- Stretch into new ways of thinking?
- Are we willing to pay all necessary prices to stay relevant?
If we answer all the preceding questions in the negative then it begs the questions:
- Are we ready to lose money?
- Lay off people?
- Are we willing to be forced to go out of business?
To stay relevant, we cannot be mentally or emotionally lazy. When we started our companies, we worked harder in order to push through our inadequacies and any lack of market credibility we thought we might have. Today, it requires the same work ethic and intestinal fortitude that we had when we first opened our doors for business. Regardless of our position within a company, we have grown professionally as we have grown older. What comes with professional maturity and age is wisdom. To me, wisdom is defined by those situations where we ran out of personal options. Think about those situations where you grew wiser out of a circumstance because your back was against the wall and all options were depleted. Did you get smarter? Wiser? Think about the desire and determination that we had to succeed? Do we have that same desire today? Consider that when we match up our professional maturity, age, wisdom, and desire, there is nothing that can stand in our way of staying ahead of the relevance curve.
This is achieved by:
- Staying green
Ray Kroc said “When you're green, you're growing. When you're ripe, you rot.” Be constantly innovating. By changing and looking for a better way of doing things, you will always be aware of what is relevant to your customers and prepared to keep moving forward. When we innovate, we ask questions. We do not settle for the status quo.
- Building your company to last
Even if your exit strategy is to one day sell, build your company to last. Buyers of companies want more than people, clients, and a healthy EBIDTA. A savvy buyer wants to see long term viability, a people-first culture that’s hungry for the next chapters of growth and that are poised to self-perpetuate. Anything short of that, business owners compromise their selling price.
- Changing the game
Plain and simple - if there is not a future in how you are delivering your product or service, find another way, another option, another outlet, another product, or a complete retooling. How many times do you think IBM or General Electric has had to retool to maintain market viability in the various market segments in which they play? A better example is Apple. Apple completely changed the game multiple times to stay relevant and create new demands.
The competitive and relevance landscape is changing—so ask yourself the questions: “Are my company, product and people still relevant? Do we have the vision to see what is downrange for our market—and can we adapt and be prepared for the change?" And then after that reflection, go out and make the changes necessary to ensure the viability of your business. As a leader, you have an oath to uphold.