08/09/2011

By Robert Craven, Managing Director, Director's Centre

I hate to be a killjoy about all these wonderful new “get-rich-quick” schemes. You know, things like “double-your-profits-in-ninety-days-or-your-money-back” or “learn-the-72-insider-secrets-of-a-multi-millionaire-in-the-next-19-days”. However, please remember that if something is “too-good-to-be-true” then it probably is.

Let’s be clear. No-one believes, in their heart of hearts, that quick fixes can really work.

A quick fix doesn’t work in hospital, it doesn’t work for your car, it doesn’t work for your weight problem and it probably doesn’t work for your business. And yet we (the business owners) still get wooed and tempted in the hope that this time it will be different. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t or maybe you are just looking in the wrong place.

The choice for business improvement (or weight loss or stopping smoking…) may be between either the “quick fix”, all wrapped up as painless and guaranteed, or the “proper fix” which probably looks like a lot of hard work. And so we plump for the quick fix option because what have we got to lose? Well, quite a lot actually. But I do not wish to dwell there.

Here is my point.

95% of businesses I see at the moment have what we call five-year-old-itis. Their problems are five years old.

In the last five years everything (and nothing) has changed. Online gets bigger and bigger, more and more people compete on price, customers are more and more fickle, the recessionary repercussions continue to ripple throughout the entire economy. And because of all this uncertainty, many businesses have been tentative about changing too much. And that is my point.

95% of businesses that I see and work with are based on five-year-old business models, based on five-year-old assumptions about who the customer is, what they think they are buying and why, how they will access and use my product/service, who I think I am competing with, the people I employ and whether, in fact, I even have the right product/service.

What I do know is that just about every assumption you had about how customer and consumers behave/buy/pay/talk/share/discuss/choose/receive products and services have changed. With one set of key strokes I can tell thousands of friends what I think of you and your product (by Twitter/FaceBook/LinkedIn). Customers have always talked but now they can talk to far more people than ever before.

In this new world, we are more and more dependent on word-of-mouth and the new power of the search, filter, aggregator and review sites (Google, Travelocity, Wikipedia,…) who ‘choose’ who we should see at the top of the list when we search for a new accountant, plumber or guitar stockist. Everything and nothing has changed.
My hunch is that five-year-old-itis is endemic nearly everywhere.

Just about every start-up has been built on old-world assumptions about customers, channels and products. Just about every existing business has done little to significantly change how they do things from the heady heights of 2006. Sure you’ve made some cuts, maybe sacked a few people. Sure you’ve cut costs, maybe even got a new logo and a new website.

But, have you really had a cold, hard look at your business and been prepared to make the tough, and required, decisions?

So quick fix or real fix? Your choice.

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