This week, I watched late-night cable news pundits speculate on why Jeff Bezos would scoop up The Washington Post for pocket change (less than 1% of his net worth). As I watched, I couldn’t help but wax nostalgic about the glory days of the newspaper industry and how much times have changed
I worked for an ad agency that relied (too heavily) on print classified advertising as a primary revenue stream for years. Those were fun times. The sales came easily, but you could see the end – from a mile away. It didn’t sneak up on my agency or on the newspapers. We had time to reinvent. We had great relationships with category-leading brands as customers. We had a core group of talented sales, creative and account professionals. Unfortunately, all of those strengths still aren’t enough to compete in the new economy.
Our downfall? We lacked vision. We didn’t make the really big, bold breakout moves required. We had little fail tolerance and next to no experience at real innovation. When the newspaper industry started folding, we got crushed. You know the drill: layoffs, zero investment in the future, and the best talent exiting the building.
Category disruption kills companies. Category disruption changes lives. The cycle of disruption is shortening and coming to an industry near you.
5 ways to prepare yourself for disruption:
- Ask yourself the tough questions. What if your primary revenue stream was cut in half? What if you lost your largest customer? What if you were handed a pink slip tomorrow? It helps to have a little “productive paranoia” and game plan the next series of moves. It’s worth considering how to build a better version of what you have today. If your business went away, would you be missed?
- Commit to constant reinvention. When the world changes, we have to change with it. The cycle time for transformation and category disruption is growing much shorter. Managing the daily grind and creating something new at the same time is hard work, but it’s work that is now required to stay ahead of the curve.
- Invest in sales. The next customer or order is the lifeblood of any business. It’s why top sales performers are paid at a premium. Seven years of declining revenue (at The Washington Post) isn’t a symptom of a problem, it’s a death march. Don’t have sales growth? Get all hands on deck to implement corrective action ASAP.
- Listen to your customers. Customers determine your value in the marketplace, which is why it pays to listen closely and iterate in concert with the needs of the customer. Is your value proposition deteriorating? Are your customers inside the Loyalty Loop? Loyal customers will help you adapt, evolve, innovate and grow.
- Act now. Can you see change coming? Don’t wait until it’s too late to respond. The time to start preparing for disruption is now.
The good news is that disruption represents opportunity. Professionally, it’s been the very best thing that ever happened to me. The business I am building today couldn’t have existed in the good old newspaper glory days. There were too many barriers to entry. Those barriers are gone. Now, I have access to the marketplace. I can compete with the biggest and best training companies in the world on the strength of my ideas and network. That is new. During periods of significant transformation, new opportunities arise in abundance.
Are you ready for disruption?
Ryan Estis & Associates is a training and development organization helping companies, leaders, sales people and individual contributors embrace change and achieve breakthrough performance in the new economy. We offer keynotes, live classroom training and online learning that blends interaction, energy and actionable content designed to elevate performance. Contact us for programming inquiries and assistance determining the curriculum that could best support your learning and development objectives.
Ryan Estis is a Keynote Speaker & Management Consultant blogging about business performance.