How to achieve business flexibility
Why is flexibility so necessary in today’s economy?
Surely you can’t help but notice how fast things are changing around. From climate to technology, to politics, to various trends, down to our own lives, preferences, behaviors. Gone are the days when things were mostly predictable and you knew from an early stage what life and the business would look like in five years, with high chances that it actually looked as you had imagined.
It’s fast. Different. Restless. That is today’s society and the business world mirrors it with accuracy. As Seth Godin put it, ”Change almost never fails because it’s too early. It almost always fails because it’s too late.” The more flexible a company is, the higher chances are to live a long, happy life. With so many new small companies emerging, especially in the tech scenery, the evolution laws apply just as well: the better and faster these companies adapt to the ever changing market, the better chances for survival and development.
Now that we have this clear, let’s see what this flexibility is about.
A flexible business can mean a lot of things, but it mainly refers to staying ahead of the market needs. A flexible business has the ability to adapt its process and product to the changes in the economic environment, consumer preferences, technology, and society, in general. The sooner, the better.
That, of course, is in general terms. What happens inside an actual company?
Leaders must embrace change, too.
Photo credit: Joseph Barrientos
Someone up there must have a clear view of the surroundings and spot out the shifting points fast enough, so there is still room for maneuver. That is the leader (the owner, the CEO, that person in charge with the vision and strategy). He’s like an air traffic controller who has to know everything about what is going around, so he can lead the operations towards a safe take off, even when a storm is coming or when another airplane has just landed. This means that the leader needs to keep an open eye, mind, and spirit and be ready to change his/her approach or tactics if needed.
Change communication channels when necessary
Flexibility also implies adapting the marketing and communication strategy to the changes in the consumer behavior. With so many options available and the online world expanding every minute, chances are that what used to work very well a year ago, might already be obsolete by now. Algorithms change. People’s preferences change; also the way they get information and interact with brands. Most often it is difficult to anticipate the next move, but if the company is not grabbing on to their initial marketing plan, it can easily adopt the new trends and be present where its target is, welcoming and onboarding them. Facebook may still be where most people are, but various channels are catching up quickly; text messages and link shares lose ground in front of images and video and those companies who manage to integrate these means of communication will manage to make their voices heard much louder and for longer.
Change approach to customer relationship
People change. They do. So do their relationships with each other and with brands. A flexible business knows how to listen to its costumers and learn what they expect, even before they are aware of it. And it delivers accordingly. More than that, today’s customers expect to be treated as what they really are: people. This means that companies need to continuously change the way they talk to their public, customize as much as possible, create experiences rather than sell products or services. Though it may seem like a paradox, the more the technology advances, the greater the need for “getting personal” in many aspects of our lives.
Flexibility or inconsistency?
You may fear that rapid changes in product, strategy or communication may look like indecision from the outside. Not an illogical fear, to tell the truth. However, the secret lies in how you handle and communicate change. If well put in context, aligned to what triggered the change and clearly explained, it will only seem natural; even more, the business will be perceived as paying attention to its environment and clever enough to embrace evolution. Flexibility doesn’t mean chaos. It doesn’t mean you need to shift all of a sudden, the moment you noticed something is going in a different direction, rushing towards it. No, these things need to be thought over; change needs to happen gradually.
That’s how we did with ThinkOut. We changed the technology when we built it, just to make sure further changes will be easier to implement. Cristi, our founder, head a clear view of what transformations may occur in time, so he made sure our product would be ready for that. We paid attention to the global trends and we built the Bank Settlement feature, steadily preparing for the next step of automated operations.
AI is no longer a nice movie effect and it will change things dramatically. We don’t know yet how exactly it will work, but we’re keeping our minds very open and taking baby steps towards it. We also listened to our customers and changed tiny details in how we communicate or the ThinkOut appearance; those details make the difference. The point is that although we started with a clear idea of how things will look like and work, we stayed flexible and embraced change as part of the process. If we had been stubborn, stuck to our initial plan, we wouldn’t have now a ready-for-the-future product.
There will hardly be sudden moves anyway, so if you, as manager, stay flexible and adapt one step at a time, keeping the coherence, you will succeed in evolving and growing consistently, in pace with the times.