Today we have a guest post by Matthew Toren, co-author of Small Business, BIG Vision.
In a world where technology, social trends, and economies change continually, rapidly, and without warning, one of the most important things an entrepreneur can do to remain competitive is create an atmosphere of flexibility within his or her business. In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to say that your company’s survival may very well depend on your ability to be flexible.
What is flexibility, and why is it so important?
I define flexibility in business as the ability for a company to make whatever internal changes are necessary to respond effectively to the changing outward environment, as quickly as possible. In other words, you’re ready for whatever happens in the market, and you’re able to turn it into opportunity by adjusting to the new paradigm almost immediately.
The reason flexibility is so vital to small businesses is because of what I stated in the first paragraph. The world is changing; it’s changing rapidly; and it isn’t going to stop changing – ever. Technology advancements and other market trends are accelerating at an exponential pace, and they won’t wait around for companies to adjust. As my brother Adam and I talk about in our new book, Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right, for those companies that don’t embrace flexibility, changes in the business environment can mean significant setbacks. For those who actually resist change, they can spell disaster.
What does it take to create a flexible company?
When it comes right down to it, flexibility within a company is an attitude – a culture. In our book, we discuss a couple of phrases that we never like to hear: “Because that’s how we’ve always done it,” and “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” What those common phrases are really saying is that we’re not only resistant to change, we don’t even want to explore the possibility that there might be a better way.
To get away from that limiting attitude and create a culture of flexibility within your company, follow these three keys for success:
Listen to your employees, partners, vendors, and customers. Never be afraid of feedback of any kind, and welcome suggestions and ideas. A flexible company culture depends on everyone associated with the company feeling comfortable sharing ideas for innovations, process improvements, and correcting shortcomings. Not only will your company be more ready for any unexpected change that comes along, you’ll become stronger and more cohesive in the meantime.
2. Really listen.
Take it one step further. In addition to being open to hearing ideas, go ask for them. Start a “Bright Idea” award system for employees. Convene customer focus groups on a regular basis, and include employees, customers, and even vendors in internal mastermind sessions. It’s one thing to say your door’s always open – it’s another to walk someone through it.
3. Open your mind.
If you follow the first two keys, you have ideas coming from all over. This is a very good thing, but only if you receive the ideas with an open, creative mind. I say creative because creativity is what allows you to see possibilities – to envision things other than the way they currently are. If you truly have an open mind, you approach ideas and obstacle the same way: Instead of “It can’t be done,” you say, “What do we need to do to make this happen?” With that frame of mind, you welcome change as an opportunity to improve and grow. And that is what flexibility is all about.
About the author: Matthew Toren is a Serial Entrepreneur (Co-founded YoungEntrepreneur.com), Mentor, Investor and award winning Co-Author of Kidpreneurs (Basic Principles of Entrepreneurship for Kids). Follow him on Twitter. Matthew is also co-author of the newly released book Small Business BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right.
Gymnast image by erin MC hammer