Roll with the Changes

In the same way that it wasn’t surprising to see Toys ‘R Us go out of business, it’s also not surprising to see that Blockbuster is down to one remaining location. Actually, that is surprising – I’m surprised they still have one location that can somehow turn a profit. While there were a number of things that lead to the end of Blockbuster (like their biggest profits coming from late fees), the biggest issue was that they never saw the online jump coming.

In 2000, Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, approached the Blockbuster CEO at the time John Antioco, and pitched an idea that would bring Blockbuster into the space that Netflix was (online). Hastings was reportedly laughed out of the office. Fast forward to 2018: I still buy a DVD every now and then, but all the movies I watch are either through Netflix, Amazon Prime, or another source for online streaming. We’re still consuming movies but the manner in which we do so has changed – drastically. And quickly.

The same pitfalls are out there for any business. If a grocery store isn’t willing to update the lines of food and variety that their customers are demanding, they’ll quickly see those customers going to the places that will.

To make sure you avoid those pitfalls, look at your business and try to see what changes are coming. Ask your clients how they use your product or service and if there’s anything changing. As the business owner, we’re possibly so close to our product we may not see these changes coming until they’re on top of us. That’s not 100% a bad thing, but we do need to be sure to find ways to gather more input and feedback on our products and services.

Look back at how things were done in your company 5 years ago versus today. Changes like those that happened in the past will continue to happen – or they’ll be replaced by completely new changes. It’s been said that the only thing constant in this life is change. (That was said by Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus 500 years years before the birth of Christ – and it’s still true today.) You can take the changes from 5 years ago and double them to get an idea of what the next 2 or 3 years will hold. Change happens so rapidly now that what took the past 5 years to get done will now be done in 2 or 3 years.

I can still remember going to the Blockbuster a few blocks from my childhood home and renting my first movie – Ace Ventura 2. The building that held Blockbuster then now houses a Qdoba, a Smart Cow, and a Noodles & Company. If you want to keep your business relevant in the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years, keep an eye out for oncoming changes and act upon them. Don’t let the Netflix of your industry catch up and surpass you overnight.

Making a Good Last Impression

No doubt you’ve heard how important it is to make a good first impression. If we behave rudely, don’t comb our hair, have the wrong color shoes on or anything else that might not give the ideal first impression, we don’t get a chance to do that again. Alternately, there is another impression that is oftentimes overlooked (or at least not given as much scrutiny) – the last impression. I’m not talking about a last impression as in the final time ever seeing the person, but rather the last impression for that one interaction. For example, there is always a lot of focus placed on the entrance of a store. It’s usually bright and clean, and if you are entering a Walmart for example, you are often greeted with a “Hi, how are you?”
However, when you leave, you’re exiting through the clean, bright physical area, but there is often no memorable impression – just a cashier handing you your items and saying, “Have a good day.” I often frequent Kwik Trip, a local convenient store, and when you leave you almost always hear something along the lines of, “Thanks for stopping, we’ll see you next time.” Not only do I walk out of a clean, well-lit location, but I’m also leaving with the idea that I will be back again.

Email signatures can work in the same way. Instead of just having your basic contact information, add in a quick quote or a funny joke: a quick line to show who you are and what you and your company stand for. In my email signature, I have my name, phone number, email, link to my company website, a few words about what we do, and then one of my favorites quotes by Thomas Jefferson – “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.” It doesn’t sound like much, but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve had people comment on it and that it was refreshing to hear. I’m doing my best to leave a good last impression. After all, the most recent interaction with you, be it in person or electronic, is the one that is most likely to stick. Be sure to take advantage of that final opportunity to make a great “last” impression!

Why? Why? Why? Why?

A few weeks ago I spent an afternoon watching a friend’s four year old daughter. Throughout the afternoon, she was asking me some questions, such as “Why are the leaves falling off the tree?” No matter what I would answer, she would always reply “Why?” I would explain why as best I could, and again she would reply “Why?” After we went through a few rounds of that, she finally got an answer that either made sense to her or worked for her. The next week I was working on a programming project and got stuck. Unable to find the solution, I put the same “Why? Why? Why? Why?” trick to use on myself.

I started asking myself “Why isn’t this working?” When I had a general answer I again asked “Why?” I kept repeating the process a few times and I eventually found the problem and a solution.

I’ve used this technique recently as well when I was cooking a batch of chili. I got done with the chili and tasked it and thought it was a bit bland considering all the flavorful vegetables I had added in. I went through a few short rounds of “Why?” and quickly realized I never added any salt to help pull the flavors together. Once I added some salt it was a great batch of chili.

Next time you’re stuck on a problem, act like a four year old and keep asking “Why?” It might take a few rounds and might even seam silly, but it works, and that is all that matters.