Small businesses must adapt in changing world

Experts say reinvention is necessary for businesses in

Experts say reinvention is necessary for businesses in order to respond to market demands, growing competition and changing customer needs. (Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile)

Jamie Herzlich

Newsday columnist Jamie Herzlich Jamie Herzlich

Herzlich writes the Small Business column in Newsday.

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For many business owners, their ability to adapt and change is a key factor in their long-term success. Those who resist change can find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

There often comes a time in a company's life cycle when reinvention is necessary in order to respond to market demands, growing competition, and customer needs, experts say.

"The world has much higher expectations and there's constant change going on," said Ellen Cooperperson, CEO of Corporate Performance Consultants, a Hauppauge-based firm specializing in organizational and leadership development. "We want to be looking at adjusting and modifying and adapting all of the time."

Specifically, it boils down to what problems the business is facing, she noted.

"If the organization has hit a wall, it's either in the culture, it's in the sales or it's in the brand and they all intertwine," she explained.

It pays to do a "SWOT" analysis to help identify the organization's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, Cooperperson said. You need to look at "where are you now as compared to where you want to be in the future," she explained.

Doing a business assessment isn't just a one-time practice, noted Marquesa Pettway, president of MLPSpeak.com, a Manhattan-based reinvention consultancy. "It needs to be done minimally twice a year," she said. This involves identifying your business' "pain points" (where it's hurting), who you'll engage to solve the problem and how, and a time frame on when you hope to solve each problem area, she said.

Pain Points: Some typical areas of pain for businesses include marketing with little to no results; inability to close a deal; struggling with cash flow; and poor time management/resource allocation, Pettway said. You may find you need to outsource or increase staff, rebrand your company, and/or develop new products or services, she noted.

Greg Demetriou recently did much of the above.

Demetriou, president of Lorraine Gregory Corp., a Farmingdale-based marketing solutions provider, saw his market changing so suddenly that he knew he had to re-evaluate his business model.

He applied and was selected to participate in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, a national 11-session mini-MBA program designed to help participants recognize new opportunities and embrace practices to help grow their companies, Demetriou said.

Since completing the program in October, corporate changes include rebranding the company's four business entities under the name Lorraine Gregory Communications Group; launching an online envelope printing store; hiring a director of business development to identify opportunities, new markets and create new products/services; and hiring a marketing director and e-commerce manager. The company, whose roots began in direct mail, now has a greater focus on online and social media marketing.

"If we don't continually reinvent ourselves to adjust to the marketplace we're going to eventually die," Demetriou said.

Smart revisions: The key is to reinvent wisely, said Karyn Greenstreet, president of Passion For Business, Llc, a small-business and business reinvention consultancy in Revere, Pa. Among Greenstreet's suggestions:

Plan before acting. Don't jump into a new business model without testing the water, setting strategic goals and an implementation plan.

Decide how you'll run your existing business while moving over to the new model.

Get your team involved early.

Look at your entire business model to see where you can innovate and transform (e.g. perhaps take a locally based business and make it national/international, partner with new businesses, etc.). A business model is like a puzzle, and all the pieces have to fit together for it to work.

Track successes and failures. Set goals and pay attention to results often so you can make tweaks along the way, she said.

And be willing to change, Cooperperson added.

"Until there's willingness, it's just talk," she noted.

 

Fast Fact

 

According to a Citibank small-business survey released in June, 53 percent of respondents say they've reinvented their business to stay afloat or competitive.