azyq0zd8zai-averie-woodardIt’s possible to lose your way in business.  Maybe the market doesn’t need you so much anymore.  Or processes that used to work well have been surpassed by the competition.

Perhaps you’ve lost your mojo and are just turning the crank.

It’s time to make a big decision.  You can follow the inevitable decline into irrelevance, or maybe just shut the company down because your heart isn’t in it.

Or you can reboot the business.

You probably know that one of the primary procedures to address computer problems is to reboot.  Turn off the power and then start up fresh.  This often works just because it cleans out all the crud that accumulates when a machine is left working for a long time.

It would be pretty traumatic to completely shut down your business and start again from scratch.  I’ve seen it done, but it’s not common.

And usually you wouldn’t want to do it anyway, because it implies that you no longer find value in all the assets you have with your running business.  Customers.  Employees.  Partnerships.  Money in the bank.

It can be very fruitful, though, to go through this exercise mentally.  You start with this question:  If I were to start over again, given what I know now, how would I design this business from scratch?

It’s a scary question, but also gives you great freedom to explore what you might change.

I find it useful to then follow up with this question:  What would be the best way of leveraging my assets and resources to make this new company successful?  Because no doubt you have amazing opportunities there.

Everybody likes to pick on the makers of buggy whips, and how their market almost completely disappeared with the advent of the automobile.  It’s a little silly, but it’s helpful to think through what might have happened 100 years ago.

No doubt there were all kinds of opinions about whether the “buggy whip market” was actually on the decline.  It’s not like the automobile replaced buggies overnight.

But even if one of those manufacturers was in serious trouble, that doesn’t mean their only alternative was to shut down.  They had process expertise with working leather, supplier relationships, inventory management, marketing channels, and contracts with stores.  Most importantly, they had customer relationships and a reputation.

Those might have been formidable resources in the early 20th century.

These assets are useful for building up a new business model.  Perhaps other horse-related products.  Or leather seats for the new automobiles.

You noticed, though, that the first step was to recognize the situation.  In this case, the market need had moved beyond the products.  But it just as easily could be an example where tough competition arose.  Or you just don’t want to be in that business anymore because it’s sending you to an early grave.

In this example I happened to focus on the product.  But a more common example I find is when your employee turnover is so high that the business is unsustainable.

That is also a time for a serious reboot.  Because employee turnover carries tremendous cost, destroyed productivity, and dissatisfied customers.

Maybe the reboot isn’t about your product or service, then, but about what your company looks like on the inside.  Once you recognize how serious the problem is, you still ask the same two questions:

  • If I were to start over again, given what I know now, how would I design this business from scratch?
  • What would be the best way of leveraging my assets and resources to make this new company successful?

Is it time to seriously redesign your business?


This article was first published in BizWest, December 2016.

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