To most business owners who have spent years or decades and thousands of dollars
building their brand and developing a client base, tossing it away to reinvent the business probably seems like the height of insanity. However, there are many reasons to tweak your business model - or to try out a whole new one - that make perfect sense. If you do it thoughtfully, it could be the best business decision you ever make.
Here's our 5-step guide to reinvention:
1. Know When to Make a Change
The first step is deciding if it's the right time for a change. Most people spend the first three years of their business absorbed in getting things started. Then they're in a growth phase for three or four years. Then they hit a glass ceiling, or don't find the work challenging anymore and want to try something different. Many factors can push a small-business owner toward reinvention--it may be a need to spend more time with family. The market may have changed. The economy may have reshuffled your customer base. You may be bored. All are legitimate reasons for change. But you need to be practical, too. Any change involves risk. If you're paying for kids in college and have a steady cash flow, you may have to suck it up a few more years.
2. Decide What You Want
After the decision is made to change, you need to decide what type of change is necessary to meet your goals. Once you decide there's something you can do better, you need to decide whether to make a little tweak or a major overhaul. It's a matter of looking at your core competencies and sticking with what you're best at. Entrepreneurs have more ideas than they have time for. The absolute first stage is deciding to cut off all those other ideas and focus on one. The easiest way to figure out what to change--and at what magnitude--is to work backward. Are you chiefly interested in reducing the hours you spend in the office? Once you have clarity on your goals and values, you have a compass to guide you and help you decide which ideas are good and which are brilliant.
3. Follow the Plan
The next step is something every business owner should be experienced at--making and following a business plan. You need to act as if you're starting from scratch, think it through thoroughly, figure out who the competition is, how you are going to beat them and what the costs are. Share your plans with other business owners or a mastermind group. Entrepreneurs tend to rely on intuition a lot, but you need to make sure other people think your plan is a good idea.
4. Make the Switch
During the transition, you'll likely be running two businesses at once as you phase out the old business model and ramp up the new one. The solution is to create a detailed exit strategy. Allow time to negotiate new leases, bring on new employees or train current employees. Be transparent through the whole process with vendors, customers, employees and, most important, your family. Give everyone notice that changes are coming, when they will happen and what it means for them.
5. Mentor and Manage
Even those committed to sticking to their business plans can start to deviate. Business owners sometimes need people to bounce things off of to keep them from going off in crazy directions. Some people go through a grieving process. Although the process can be rough, reinventing your business can be a rush.
Reinvention is an exciting place to be. A business owner gets to reinvent themselves with capital and 10 or 20 years of experience--without making mistakes. They have an ace in the hole. Don't be afraid to move forward and reinvent yourself, your business - or your life.