15/10/2010

By Andrew Lester

The ability to move on each year is driven by one key factor: customer need. Business owners and directors who are successful at regularly doing themselves out of their own jobs do so with the clear understanding of customer trends and where the next opportunities lie.

It is no great surprise therefore that a deep understanding of the market, emerging trends and sector busting technologies are the stock in trade of successful entrepreneurs who reinvent their roles. It is not enough to have a “hunch” about a market — this might work once but it does not set the basis for serial opportunities. To be successful in regularly redefining yourself, you need accurate and insightful analysis that gives you the edge over others.

This does not mean that you have to be the fastest into a new sector. As I’ve mentioned before over 99% of the value derived from new inventions goes to the imitators. Imitators have the customer insights that help them meet customer needs better and more sustainably.

Getting the insight to drive new initiatives requires an ongoing feed of data and research from formal and informal sources. Customers, your employees and suppliers are obvious places to start. If you haven’t got well structured means for getting and analysing changing customer needs and the relative value they ascribe to them then your chances of regularly “moving on” in a controlled and sustainable manner are limited.

However, those who regularly reinvent what they do often have an uncanny ability to empathise with the market and predict customer needs. This may be irritating to those of us without the “gift” but their ability is often borne out later by research and analysis. I once worked for such a boss. It used to drive me mad: how did he know “X” when the research wasn’t done yet? The answer was simple, his networks and antennae were well attuned to customer needs and any slight change jolted him to take extra note: a customer remark might just fit with a supplier’s comment from a few weeks ago. However he did it, he made one hard and fast rule: never back fit the research to preconceived thoughts and interpretations.

For many SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) the owners are the ears and eyes of business on customer needs. If this remains the case, they will be unable to move on and reinvent the business on a regular basis. To be successful customer needs have to be uncovered and understood by the organisation not just one or two individuals. If not, the business will not be sustainable. Consequently the first task for any owner / director wanting to do themselves out of their own job each year is to make sure that the lifeblood of successful businesses (customer insight) is coursing through the whole business, and is respected and acted on appropriately and swiftly.

Please feel free to comment by contacting me: andrewlester@carr-michael.com

Andrew Lester is Managing Partner of Carr-Michael Consulting, specialists in growth management and business performance improvement.

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