Editor’s note: Lea Strickland is president and chief executive officer of Focus Resources.
CARY, N.C. – Is your business a dinosaur in the competitive market? Is your business heading toward extinction – going the way of the dodo?
Some of us passed through a period of fascination with prehistoric creatures such as dinosaurs, as well as more recently demised species. Recall the phrase dead as a dodo?
We saw images of a pterodactyl, the winged dinosaur often pictured in cartoons and sci-fi movies with sharp talons and immense wing-spans and read about the dodo, a small flightless bird which became extinct in the 17th century. To imagine riding a pterodactyl and/or chasing a dodo presents an easily accessible and extreme contrast in how much risk can be associated with each task.
These two creatures are extinct from different pressures and causes. It is appropriate to use this imagery to represent business practices and approaches which may become extinct – businesses which cannot adapt to environmental changes and evolve into viable business models. All too often the mega, international corporations keep trying to ride that pterodactyl (a feat no one has accomplished!) and smaller organizations continue to chase after a bird which never flew.
Survival of the Fittest?
As businesses become more established, their survival is often more momentum than an ability to reproduce past successes. They keep doing what they have always done and expect that either the environment (including competitors) will remain unchanged or, if it does change, it won’t matter because history will keep repeating itself. The pterodactyl will not be alive and well but will carry the corporation on its immense wings to soar across the horizon of success – perhaps even preying on others along the way.
Now the small company, perhaps a new business, sets course to follow the “success” of business models of those pterodactyl riding giants. The small business lacking momentum keeps trying to find success, keeps trying to gain momentum. Success eludes them, however, and the company is well on its way to being dead as the dodo.
Past Performance Is Not a Guarantee of Future Success
Too often companies and industries of all sizes find a business model, marketing position, and other strategic and tactical decisions which become “comfortable” and are “successful”. The past becomes the single biggest obstacle to competing in the present with an eye to the future.
While many of the tools in your business arsenal may remain effective, others will not. The business capable of surviving and thriving regardless of changes, market threats, and competition for scarce resources is one which is constantly monitoring and adapting to environmental changes.
Avoiding the Endangered Species List
So, businesses need to have the ability to do the following:
- Organize for adaptability
- Build a strategy for evolution
- Identify the core “DNA” you want to “pass on”
- Provide an environment which facilitates growth and limits the ability to “fatally mutate”
To Make the Recovering Species List
For the business which isn’t currently successful and needs to get off the endangered species list, strategy and time are critical. Every environmental pressure – internal or external – places a greater degree of stress on the viability of the organization. Every day is focused on survival. Survival – today, tomorrow, and the day after – is about short-term realities with a long-term perspective.
From Extinction to Innovation
For a company near extinction, subtle change generally won’t be enough. Step function change, major innovation in the business model, the market strategy, business position, and deployment of scarce resources are all subject to core survival mode.
You have only to look at the U.S. Automotive industry In current business events to see the dinosaur dancing onto the endangered species list. The business model and methods of the mid-twentieth century are those expected to drive success in the 21st century. The traditional tactic of cutting costs is about damage control and how to protect the current perspective of the business. It does not look, instead, at taking an innovative step which focuses on the DNA of success (the Mustang) which can be replicated to build the top line of revenues.
Do what you know how to do well over and over – replicate success. Invest in the things which affect the top line – with clear objectives and measurable results. Reducing operational costs is a short term fix. The long term answer is building the business with effective product development and meaningful measurable results. Build cars people want to buy at a cost they can pay with a quality and safety they require, and your business innovates its way to success.
Aiming for “Delisted” Status – Officially Back to Normal
When is an organization off the endangered species list? When the business knows how to monitor and adapt to its environment. When the business knows how to create and manage change, enabling the organization to put others on the endangered list.
An organization is off the endangered species list when it has the funds and opportunities to grow. The ability to pay your bills, run at full speed, and make sale after profitable sale is a measure of a return to normal. These measures mean you have made it! You are a recovered business with new vitality and opportunities.
Now you can soar with eagles and swim with the sharks and still succeed.