Every industry has felt a change in the last few years and doing business certainly isn't what it used to be, but that doesn't mean it is a bad time to start a business. I would argue there has never been a better time to try your hand at the game. Unlike years ago, today you are probably expected to be available 24/7, immediately know the answer to every questions, and have a fabulous Facebook page. Have you been able to keep up with the changes?
We all know the story of failed retail giants like Sears and Blockbuster, forcing retail stores to adapt or suffer the same consequences. Interestingly, there seems to be a resurgence of local mom-and-pop type stores, who cater to those who enjoy shopping local and getting a personalized experience. Being near the beach certainly helps, shopping is a recreational activity around here and interacting with the locals is just part of the experience tourists are looking for. Retail sets an easy example for us to follow and issues a warning to other industries: adapt or die.
How can you take advantage of changes in your industry?
1. Get your business online
People enjoy working with someone that is available and local. Large chains even see the importance of a local presence but the trick is getting people to find you in the weeds of search . Contractors can often turn one job into another and through referrals stay busy continuously. Our family business, Norton Insurance, is lucky to have been around a long time and benefits from referrals but new businesses need to create an online presence that makes it LOOK like they've been around a day or two and know what they are doing. There is nothing wrong with that, assuming they do actually know what they are doing, but that can be a tough road. It may be worth enlisting help in creating your website and improving your web presence.
2. Play to your strengths and find a niche
With few exceptions, your business doesn’t have the luxury of being the "only one in town" anymore. Wisdom and experience can't be bought or bypassed so if you have them, emphasize it! Price remains king and it is certainly annoying when someone will choose another company to do business with over a few dollars but it may surprise you how many people care about quality and are willing to pay extra for it. Sticking to your strengths ensures a good quality product, helping you build a distinct reputation. Over the years our business has shifted as insurance products changed, focusing on things we know we do well and referring to others the things we can't.
3. Don’t give up
Quality businesses have a way of sticking around, cutting corners may save time and money but a stool with a gimpy leg will eventually fail or no longer be worth the pain it causes. Your competitor on the street corner selling his "secret formula" will probably be selling something else next year. You may not feel like your investment in skilled labor or insurance is paying off but I can promise that in the long run it will have been worth it. Insurance is designed to keep you in business when the Big One comes, whether that be a physical or legal storm.
Stability is difficult to achieve in a turbulent business environment. Staying successful is more about being willing to change when the time is right rather than change for the sake of change. Competition will come and go, tastes will change, and innovations will certainly alter the way we do business in the future. Insurance should be part of your long-term stability planning and as you keep adapting, you may soon be the one on the cutting edge that others are scrambling to emulate.