Nostalgia is a wistful yearning for the past, an almost childish desire to have the world unchanged, constant, secure as it once used to be. It’s an emotion most of us feel for different things – but that can be deadly and dangerous for an entrepreneur to feel about business.
Because change is constant in a business environment.
Being willing, even eager, to embrace and adapt to change is a serious competitive edge for any entrepreneur. Welcoming trend shifts, positioning yourself to stay on top of them, and striving to remain ahead of your competition are all functions of such readiness to change.
The changes you’re forced to face, accept and adapt to may be big or small. For this very column I’m writing for Yaro’s blog, I have a plan and outline of topics to cover. But after reading Yaro’s interesting insights into how he is planning to change his blog profit model, I changed my schedule to write this post!
Some changes are major and serious. They can have a significant impact on your business – and there’s no saying if it will be positive or negative. If you read the comments on Yaro’s post, you’ll see how mixed the reactions are. Can you imagine being in his shoes, wondering what to do next? There’s income at risk, an audience who may leave, a brand that could become diluted. . . and maybe more at stake.
Yet embracing change, trying new things and growing in some ways are mandatory choices every entrepreneur must make. My mentor, Jay Abraham, says about business, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying!”
So stagnation, or a wishful longing for ‘constancy’, is the kiss of death for your business ventures. Let’s look at why and how you change, and maybe it will encourage you to make those changes more confidently and securely.
Depending upon how long ago you started your entrepreneurial journey, you may look back and wonder at how far you’ve come. Not just by way of business growth, but how much you personally have changed, improved, grown.
That’s evolution. It’s what sets apart the more seasoned business owner from the raw greenhorn. And because everyone of us evolves, we internally drive certain changes in our business and related pursuits. These are some of those factors that will power change in your business:
When I started my Internet infopreneur voyage, I didn’t even know if writing was my strong suit. It was a carefree step taken into an exciting new Web based world that was just opening its doors to new citizens.
By constant practice and incremental improvement, I grew better at expressing my thoughts, opinions and feelings in writing. This led to more people reading what I had to say. Some of them were publishers of bigger websites, and it led to my being invited to write for them.
Watching how a large infopreneur business like About.com was run gave precious insights that could be used in building and growing a smaller operation. And that’s how my own information business started.
As my knowledge and experience grew, I made changes more swiftly, effectively and confidently. Some of them worked. Others didn’t. By weeding out the ‘losers’ and keeping (and scaling) the ‘winners’, my infopreneur business grew over 15 years to where it is today – raising enough money to fund 78 heart operations for under-privileged children with congenital heart defects.
When setting out to launch my online business, I had to bootstrap my way and set a limit on expenses. So I decided they would always be less than my earnings!
Now, looking back, that was probably not a smart decision. But way back when I had zero experience as a business owner, and not even a vague concept of what it takes to build and run an online business, this sounded like a reasonable approach, and so I followed it.
My very first purchase was a $19 ebook, “Make Your Site Sell” by Dr. Ken Evoy, and it came after I had spent two YEARS as an information marketer. What I learned in it literally tripled my income, and that funded many more purchases, each of which grew my results to a higher level.
More recently, I worked on a new project to develop 50 niche websites, all at once. Without a budget to spend on outsourcing content creation, buying domains and web hosting, and marketing the sites to rank well on search engines, this project would have been a non-starter.
Sometimes having money available to throw at a project changes the scale, scope and nature of what you can attempt.
In an earlier post, we discussed the purpose of your business – and how that purpose evolves over time. Your own needs and goals from your business are changing all the time. And five years from now, you’ll most probably find that the targets you set yourself today are completely different from what you want then.
In 2001, when I launched my first foray into becoming a serious information marketer and built a portfolio of infoproducts, my goal was to be able to fund one heart operation from business profits.
Ten years later, as I detailed in my book “47 Hearts – How to live your dreams, with passion, purpose and persistence”, this goal has grown to funding 47 operations every year.
Your goals and purpose will be different. But they will also change. Your personal choices will not be constant. You may get married or divorced, have kids or change jobs, move to another country or find a new passion. And your priorities will shift. Your business goal posts will move to fit the new realities.
All of these are ‘internal’ factors, determined by what happens to you and therefore impacts your business. But you and your business do not exist in splendid isolation. You’re a part of a complex, interactive and ever-shifting universe, and external factors influence your decisions in a major way too.
Your success – even survival – depends upon how well you can adapt to them.
These are some of the issues that may force you to adapt and modify what you’re currently doing:
Every online entrepreneur is affected by technology. We love it, because technology streamlines and fuels most of our daily activity. We fear it, because it changes so rapidly, often leaving the older versions in the dust.
Sometimes today’s technology fades a little in significance. At other times, it gets totally decimated by new developments. If you run an online business that is rooted in old technology, change is forced upon you – becoming a ‘do or die’ situation.
While it may not be true of some niches, the explosive and continuous growth of Web usage has led to growing competition in many areas. Where there used to be five competitors, there are now 50 – or even 500. Where only novices were competing against other beginners, today there are established behemoth business giants entering (or getting entrenched) in the online marketplace.
Smart entrepreneurs will always adapt and compete efficiently. It may be through re-defining the market they target, or re-positioning their offer to be more attractive and appealing, or even by re-aligning and partnering with the bigger competitor with deeper pockets.
Regardless of how you adapt, competition forces you to start changing. The status quo just got a lot more shaky and uncertain!
Sometimes it’s better NOT to know how the future will be! Way back when I started, my naive goal was to build an automated information marketing system, grow it to hit an income target of $X, and then let it run on auto-pilot, while I used the revenue to fund my non-profit project upon which I would concentrate all my resources.
If I had known how things would turn out, I might never have started!
Sure, my information business has grown. But not automatically. Not in a way that can run hands-free. And not so that I can totally walk away from it and focus exclusively on other things. That’s because my clients’ needs are changing, shifting, moving with the marketplace.
To stay viable, competitive and useful, what I do for them must change to mirror their new requirements. And your customers are the same. What they wanted three years back is different from what they want today. If you only keep offering them the “same old”, they’re going somewhere else for what it is they want now!
One more factor that thrusts unwelcome change upon entrepreneurs is the broader shift in a business environment. If you’ve been in your online business for over ten years, you’ll recall the ‘dot bomb’ catastrophe of 2000, and how the ridiculous “freebies for eyeballs” concept imploded spectacularly.
Even if you launched your online business three years back, you’ve weathered the rough seas of a global recession that has eaten badly into the profitability and sales of many information marketers, forcing many to close doors or move into other ventures.
Yaro’s excellent post shares some of the ways he adapted to these changes. Curiously enough, about a year earlier I went through nearly all the same steps – selling off unused domain names, whittling down my Aweber database, selling off unproductive or stale projects, streamlining Web hosting (I had six different services, some with more than two accounts!), canceling paid subscriptions and more.
A few years back, after seeing the shenanigans going on in the ‘make money online IM’ space and no longer wanting to be associated with them, I chose to re-brand myself as an ‘Internet infopreneur’ instead of ‘Internet marketer’ – and that helped a lot in changing perception.
The exact steps you’ll take will depend upon you, your business and your attitude towards change.
But taking those steps is no longer an option – it has become a necessity.