Businesses must constantly evolve or risk being caught out

Jill Pinner, founder of Fizz, explores how even traditional businesses have to be nimble and evolve to survive in a 21st century post-recession landscape.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from weathering the storm of more than one recession, it’s that in business, pro-active forward planning is a must.

The ability to be flexible and be nimble is paramount. If you aren’t anticipating the next change, your business will bear the full brunt when it does finally hit. Being able to respond quickly and efficiently to changes in the industry or the wider economy is critical to building a long-term business.

Longevity for your business isn’t just about having a contingency plan for the short term and long term. It’s about fostering a culture of forward thinking, and investing in the future of your company even if the times are good.

Some of the best-known companies in the world began with a very different set of products and services than they have now. Avon was originally a door-to-door bookseller and Tiffany & Co sold stationary. In both instances, the business people behind the companies recognised that there was an opportunity to tweak the concept; Mr Avon starting selling perfumes and make-up, and Mr Tiffany, jewellery. This still applies to companies today. The flexibility to react to the business environment and seize opportunities as they arise is essential if you want to prosper.

The best approach to effectively planning for the future is taking the time to take a long and objective look at the business, engage with past and present clients to discover strengths and weaknesses, and stay abreast of what competitors are up to. This kind of information is invaluable to planning future strategies.

For example, customers and clients can be incredibly helpful in highlighting extra services that they’d find particularly useful and be willing to pay extra for. At Fizz, this information allowed us to refresh and modernise ourselves, not just in terms of branding, but in terms of developing a more complete, rounded set of services we could offer clients.

My approach has always been that the best way to grow your business is to grow your clients’ businesses. This means making yourself as useful to your clients and customers as possible. If the services you’re offering are of the one-trick variety, such as delivering packages, you have to find ways to integrate that with other services, such as selling packaging supplies.

Customers in the 21st century want the real deal and businesses have to ensure they evolve their differentiators. If they can’t compete on price, they have to compete on the services they provide, or develop a better overall package of value. This might involve offering something new or unexpected, increasing spend on customer service or developing the online or in-store environment.

Ultimately, flexibility enables companies to evolve more readily. This can even be an issue of business culture, where some businesspeople refuse to adapt their model. For example, in an increasingly digital world there are still many companies which struggle to merge their online and offline activity. This can also involve forming partnerships with companies you wouldn’t necessarily associate with your current business model yet have a matching philosophy and business culture.

At Fizz we’ve just partnered with online parenting site UpAllHours to ensure our business is working to form relationships that deliver new, engaged audiences for our clients. Similarly, UpAllHours recognises that working with Fizz enables them to put the human element into their business and engage with their users offline.

From our perspective, we’ve recognised that experiential marketing can’t reach everyone when people are spending more and more time online. The partnership enables both companies to offer customers more, and that’s the vital ingredient for success.

Whatever the business, there’s always something more you can offer your customers. The ones that come out on top are the early adopters who make sure they are the first of their competitors to take that leap. Complacency is not an option. If there’s a chance to branch out into new things, you should take it by the hand and run with it.

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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Business strategy