One of the most difficult things to accept for a successful businessperson is understanding that what got them to where they are no longer works. This can be quite confronting, not only because they can feel adrift about what to do next in the brave new world of digital communication, but because they can no longer rely exclusively on gut instinct. Letting go of the past is easier said than done.

What this means is that these business people need to change how they operate, and they need to make changes in their business. That’s a lot of change to take in. But let’s take a quick look at the alternative. They could let all their hard work disappear because they were too inflexible but that is also usually too unpalatable.

We’ve all met people that are stuck in the glory days of the past, rueing the changing landscape, yearning for simpler days when all a business needed to do was take out an annual ad in the Yellow Pages and let longevity rise their ad position to the top of the listings.

But things have changed and Yellow Pages ads can’t deliver the steady flow of customers that they used to. There is no point spending time complaining, now is the time to discover how to adapt. It can be helpful to think about the following questions:

  • What can my business do differently?
  • What do I need to hold onto and what can I let go of?
  • When do I need to listen to new ideas and when can I safely stick to my gut about the right way to do things?

The problem with going with your gut is that only works when you have deep knowledge of a particular area. It doesn’t work so well when it’s an area you’re unfamiliar with. You need to be open to change while maintaining your instincts.  

4 Tips for Handling Change

1. Test everything

You don’t need to make any bold moves to decide if you’re heading in the right direction.  Instead, take test runs where you can, document your results and plan your strategy based on the feedback you get.

2. Take a beta approach

Having been in business for some time, you may feel like you should have all the answers and that your staff and customers expect you to know everything. This isn’t usually the case and if you asked them most would love to provide you with feedback on new ideas or collateral.

3. Be open to new possibilities  

This doesn’t mean saying yes to everything just because everyone else is doing it. That approach can quickly lead to frustration and a feeling of going round in circles. If you’ve decided to run a test in a new area then be clear about what your testing. This will make it easier to assess and will give you a better sense of progress.  

For example, perhaps you feel Twitter may be a good match for your business but you’re not sure if it’s worth the time and effort to get it running. So you want to see if it appeals to your existing customers. Before setting up an account, you could ask your customers if they would like to communicate with you on Twitter. Would it help them stay informed about what is happening with your business? How many of your customers are active users?  

4. Learn from the past without being tied to it

Now is the time to realise that the methods you relied on to run your business need to be updated, and to embrace new technologies that can improve your customer focus. Rather than hinder your business, change is a valuable tool to allow you to adjust strategies and give your business an underlying resilience to overcome any future hurdles.

Learning from the past without being tied to it can be the most difficult path to walk, but by following the tips suggested above, you can keep a handle on change and keep checking in with what you’ve learned over the years.