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Change or Stay the Course?

I read a quote the other day and it has stuck with me. I’ve been trying to figure out how to work it into a worthwhile post. The quote is from author William R. Inge. He says …

“There are two kinds of fools. One says, ‘This is old, therefore it is good,’; the other says, ‘This is new, therefore it is better.’ “

“This is old, therefore it is good,” is the trap we get into when we say things like, “We’ve always done it this way.”

“This is new, therefore it is better,” is the trap we get into especially whenever a new form of advertising comes along. We think we need to be on the cutting edge or we will get left behind.

The problem with both of those statements is that they are completely right and completely wrong at the same time. Some old things are really good and shouldn’t be changed. Some new things are truly better and will disrupt your industry and kill your business if you don’t adopt them.

I was at a presentation a few years ago when the speaker asked us to raise our hands if we had any employees that had been with us twenty or more years. I raised my hand.

He said the best thing we could do for our business is to fire those people the day we got back. They were the keepers of the flame of everything old. They were the standard bearers for, “We’ve always done it this way.”

I didn’t fire those people (I had two at the time), but I took to heart his meaning and paid close attention to who was willing to change and who wasn’t.

The other side of the coin was fascinating, too. Back in the early 90’s we had newsprint, radio, TV, billboard, yellow pages, and direct mail as our advertising options. There was no social media, email, or mobile marketing. The movie theaters weren’t running pre-show ads. Most of us didn’t even know the word Google, let alone have our own website with SEO optimization.

Yet each one of those was going to disrupt the advertising industry and change it forever (or so we were told).

The sales pitch from every rep was the same. “If you don’t jump on this bandwagon, you’re going to miss out on the biggest change the industry has ever seen, and you’ll be left in the dust by your competition.”

Some of those new things (like email and having your own website) really have changed the game for small businesses. Some, like closed-circuit TV, haven’t been quite as lucrative as promised.

How do you know when to change and when not to change? For many of us, that is the biggest question and hardest task. I wrote about it once before and came up with these three points of what to change …

Never Change: Your Core Values, Putting Your Customer First

Don’t Change Now: Anything that is productive and efficient

Change Now: Everything else

The best way avoid becoming one of the two fools above is to have a process for when and how to change.

WHEN TO CHANGE

When someone asks you to change something you’ve always done, you get defensive. That is a natural reaction. Here is a process to help you decide when to change the old (or chase after the new.)

First ask this question …

  • Is this a tweak or a wholesale change?

If it is a tweak and the tweak makes the current process more efficient and/or more customer-friendly, you should do it.

In fact you should always be looking for tweaks, small changes that make things work better.

If it is a wholesale change—some shiny, new bauble—then you have to ask a few more questions …

  • Does the new process/system fit within our Core Values?
  • Is it customer-friendly?
  • Is it faster or more efficient than the old way?
  • Can it be easily taught to everyone on the team?

If you answered yes to all of those questions, then it is a good change.

If you answered no to either of the first two questions, you’re better off staying the course.

If you answered no to the third question, but a strong yes to the first two, it might be worth considering. sometimes it is worth giving up a little efficiency on your end if it helps delight more customers.

If you answered yes to the first three but not the last question, just understand there will be some growing pains to get the new system implemented, but it is still worth making the change.

If that isn’t enough to help you decide, you can do what I did. I always liked to ask two more questions …

  • Is the old way no longer working?
  • What statistics were slain to make this bauble look enticing?

Change costs time, money, and other resources. Change is not always easy. In Seth Godin’s book THE DIP, he shows how change often causes a dip in productivity at first, followed by the gains you were hoping to get when you made the change.

Sometimes it is better to keep the old ways. Sometimes it is better to embrace the new.

The true fool, however, is the business owner who doesn’t have a process to evaluate when and how to change your business for the better.

Fortunately, you’re no fool.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS We’ll explore how to change later this week.

PPS I had one more technique I used for making decisions on the shiny, new baubles presented to me, especially in advertising. I slept on them. If something new is good, it will still be available tomorrow. In fact, if it is really good, tomorrow there will be two more people trying to sell you on it.

When it came to new advertising methods, I would also ask …

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