Adapt or Die

During my over 10 years of being an entrepreneur, there is one important lesson that has stuck with me: you have to be adaptable. That is because your business, at any given time is either fighting for relevance or survival. When things are going great, you are going to attract competition. Depending on what the competition is offering, you may suddenly find yourself in trouble. Even if the competition is not yet threatening the survival of your business, you will have to innovate to stay relevant - because sooner or later, someone is going to crack your code and give you a real run for your money.

In addition, threats to your business do not always come from competitors. They may come from internal dynamics of your business, like losing a big client/customer/supplier or from bad decisions you've made (which will happen) that have either caught up with you or are holding back your progress.

Innovating to stay relevant or to survive requires you to adapt. However, to be adaptable in business, you have to accept two basic facts:

  1. You don't know as much as you think you know.

  2. What worked yesterday may not work today.

The first requires you to question everything. Talk to your customers and find out if you are still solving their problem. Have an honest conversation with your employees about the company you want to be and what else you could be doing to get there. Get feedback from suppliers on what trends they are seeing in your industry.

The second requires you to constantly test your assumptions and hypothesis to make sure they are still true. In addition, pay attention to your competitors but do not obsess over them. Resist the urge to follow their lead unless you are convinced the change they are implementing makes sense and will work for your business. Lastly, on a regular basis, ask yourself this question: "what is the one thing someone could do to put me out of business"? Once you identify what that is, work your tail off to mitigate that risk.

So, remember, in business, you are always bouncing between two worlds - trying to survive or working to stay relevant. Waking up with that in mind helps you stay humble, alert and adaptable as your business environment changes.

By Kwame Kuadey