The time comes when you know you need to make changes in your business, but changes can be intimidating. How do you know if the team will accept the new ideas? How do you know if the clients will like it? How do you know the changes will even work?
Well, the short answer is that you don't know, and that's okay. In fact, it can be to your benefit. Not knowing and choosing to move ahead anyway can actually become a competitive advantage for you if you approach it with strategic intent.
Changing your business model, or even just changing processes or team structure, can be intimidating, sure. But if you wait around, dragging your feet on a decision while researching every option and seeking out multiple instances of proof that something is going to be a sure-fire success, then you’re wasting valuable time.
If something is already a sure-fire success, then guess who else is using this idea, and guess who else is already expecting it? Yep, competitors and clients/employees. By the time you adopt these "new ideas" they will simply be "me too" ideas. These may be things you should be doing, but waiting so long to implement simply demonstrates your inclination toward following vs. leading.
Assess your needs and think about the strategy
To be different and to stand out in a way that resonates with clients and employees, think strategically about your business model and the challenges you’re facing. What issues do you need to address that will move you forward as an organization and demonstrate your leadership?
- Is your business model addressing current client needs or are you using an antiquated approach? Maybe you need to re-set the expectations of what value you can offer clients and change-up or expand your product/service offerings.
- Maybe your team is organized in a way that used to be effective, but changes in the organization have made the current structure obsolete, making it time to rethink delivery methods and intended results.
- Perhaps you’re having some troubles with employee engagement, attraction/retention, or general dissatisfaction, and it’s time to consider different employee benefit offerings, better internal communication, or improved performance coaching and/or career development.
Are you a fearful or confident leader?
Fearful leaders and organizations lacking confidence will wait until they can find a proven answer. They will search every website, read every book, and ask advice from every person they meet. In the meantime, their businesses sit idly by maintaining status quo.
Strong, confident leaders and organizations with a commitment to always providing the best solutions to clients and employees will take a different approach. They’ll assess the situation, gather feedback from the critical stakeholders, analyze the pros and cons of possible scenarios, and then get in the game.
They will communicate to their team throughout the process so everyone is aware of what is happening and why. They’ll make sure their team understands well enough to buy into the changes and even help put them in place.
It takes courage to try the un-proven ideas. I see the intimidation factor kick in, paralyzing people into holding tight to the “way we’ve always done it” just because they don't want to be the first one out there on the field.
But I also get to see those who recognize the need for change and embrace it as a whole team with open communication. It’s these companies that are the most successful at managing change because they’re all in it together and know that they’re embarking on a new journey, not for the sake of the journey, but for the future of the business.
Having a Vision can take you from fearful to confident
Knowing where you’re going as an organization is the major differentiator in this equation. Without a defined a vision, both qualitatively and quantitatively, of the business you need to become, you have 360 degrees of opportunities that could potentially “move you forward”, but most are likely in the wrong direction. Having a defined vision will provide a narrowed, focused direction and make your decision-making infinitely easier.
If you do have defined a vision for your insurance agency, and you’ve shared it with the team, then you have a specific target for the new actions you should be taking and where they should be moving you. When you have this defined vision, it becomes so much easier to pull the trigger on tough decisions.
When working from a shared vision, you can now allow, and enable and even encourage, the team to offer constructive input around the new ideas. And because you’ve all vetted the idea, you can now go into decision-making feeling confident and taking decisive, rather than tentative, action. You know this new idea is taking you in the right direction.
Go for it
Every time Kevin and I have taken a deep breath and said, "Let's just try it," we've never regretted it. Even if it doesn't work in the long run, we build courage knowing we tried it, which then encourages us to go on and try something else. A few things that have required a step forward into the unknown for us:
- Leaving secure jobs to start a business built on ideas that weren't popular at the time, but people really needed to hear.
- Rename/rebrand our company after we had an established brand because our business had outgrown our name.
- Expand our model into new service areas our clients needed and hiring new people to build the new services from scratch.
What’s the risk?
If you choose to wait for ideas to become so rock solid that everyone wants them, you run the risk of being a follower or laggard in the eyes of your employees, clients, and partners. Your opportunities become more and more limited because people start seeing you as irrelevant, and you’ll find yourself left working with the people who can’t go work or partner somewhere else. Who wants to be a part of a sinking ship?
Every day is an act of courage for all of us – some big, some small. And even just one small step in the direction of courage adds little bit of confidence to your game. And that, in turn, opens more and more opportunities to take more small steps of courage.
Take a shot with an un-proven idea and see how it goes. You might just find yourself becoming the competitor who's bringing disruptive ideas into your market, re-setting client expectations, and attracting new, talented people who want to be a part of the excitement you’re generating.
Photo by clappstar.