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Competition comes in many forms, so whatever business you are in it is important to be constantly asking yourself some basic questions. Some of those questions might be:
Am I meeting my customers needs?
Is someone else doing a better job?
Is my industry changing?
If I keep doing what I do will I still be here in 5 years?
What else could I be doing?
Disruption can happen in any business, as has been seen many times over the years. We only have to think about the affect of big box stores on the smaller retail shops, the impact of the internet on so many businesses, the impact of low cost off-shore labour on many industries ... just to name a few.
When you work in and around high tech, or with the big consulting firms then innovation and change tends to be "a given" ... but that is not always the case in smaller, mainstream businesses.
Yesterday I had my motorcycle serviced and today I had my car serviced. It is always a frustrating exercise for me, and I assume any busy person, to have to take time from my schedule to drive out to the garage and then get back to work. Which got me thinking about these businesses.
I asked the owner of the car shop how business was going and he replied that the last couple of months had been OK, he actually made money. He suggested that in a 12 month period he will make money for 3 or 4 months, break even for 3 or 4 months and "survive" for the rest.
"Have you any plans to do anything different?", I said. He doesn't.
At the motorcycle shop I managed to arrive there about 2 minutes after closing time, received no sympathy from the exiting employees and was lucky enough that there was a manager still on the phone who let me drop my bike off for service the next day. On pickup day I had not heard from them 90 minutes before closing so after several calls I finally connected to the service shop and they were not sure if it was going to be completed that day. It was ... but again I had a level of stress I did not need.
None of this is earth shattering ... and everyone has these frustrations. But ... it could be better.
A disruptive model could easily drive both of these hard working business owners out of business!
Why are they content?
If my business was unprofitable for 3 to 5 months a year I would do something about it.
If my customers were having trouble getting to my shop for service I would make it easy for them.
I took a quick look at what other service shops are doing around the world (that disruptive internet again) and came up with some top of mind ideas for these business owners ...
Look at your hours of operation ... if you are open when your clients are working and closed when they have free time does that make sense? It doesn't need to be a radical change but opening the retail shop for evening hours, with an opportunity to drop a bike off with them might just make life a lot easier for your customer.
The big garages have a shuttle ... why not have a pick up your bike/car service? Pick it up anywhere and return after service ... I would pay for that!
What else could you do with your shop to generate revenues? Offer the use of the shop to DIY people who like to work on their own vehicles, but don't have the tools or space. Offer courses to teach people at various levels about vehicle maintenance. Form a partnership with larger shops as an overflow capability to help them meet their needs. Buy a portable garage ... a truck that could do "house calls".
It is not just the big companies that need to reinvent themselves ... every business owner needs to think that way. It is tough to own and operate a business, the start up phase is extremely stressful, there are always ownership related issues but experience reduces the stress levels. This creates a risk of complacency and perhaps even a shift to a more risk averse approach to business ... so it is critical to remember, in ANY business Reinvention is NOT optional!
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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