One of the most fascinating case studies in business success and failure is the story about Netflix and Blockbuster. Netflix entered the market when Blockbuster was the clear leader in video rental. In fact, when Netflix offered Blockbuster a deal to run their online rental business, Blockbuster’s leadership laughed in the face of the Netflix team. Yet we all know how that story ended. Netflix didn’t just emerge as a clear leader in the video rental model. They innovated to stay ahead of the curve. Today, Netflix is worth billions of dollars and has 221.6 million subscribers across the globe. On the other hand, there’s a singular Blockbuster store that’s now largely a tourist destination in Bend, Oregon.
Netflix and Blockbuster are great examples of just how important it is to know your business and the market landscape. You must understand your business well enough to adapt as the market changes if you want to remain successful. You can do that as a leader by focusing on the following attributes to help your business flourish.
You may be an expert in your field, but there’s always more you can learn. Staying curious means exploring possibilities and being open to the unknown. Companies that ask questions like, “Is there a better way?” or, “What are my clients/customers experiencing and how can I make this better?” will find ways to adapt and grow. But they must quickly find solutions for those questions.
Curiosity naturally leads to innovation. As we look for better ways to do things or as we try to solve problems for those who trust us, businesses will begin to adapt and grow with their market. Even when you’re an expert in the field, there are always better ways of doing things, and curiosity will help you find them.
Business changes as the world changes. Netflix was a major disruption for Blockbuster, and rather than look ahead at what Netflix was solving for consumers, Blockbuster held on to their tried-and-true ways of doing things. That unwillingness to embrace disruption was what ended their company. Sure, disruption can feel uncomfortable. But it can also be an incredible tool for business.
As consumers look for more convenience or new experiences with the companies they frequent, disruption will make you rethink the way you do your business. It can expose areas where you need to improve, or it can bring completely new ideas to the table. In short, it stimulates growth. Being open to those disruptions can either make or break a company.
Make innovation part of the culture
If you don’t have the space for innovation within your company, you’re already behind the curve. Start encouraging innovation as part of your business practices to encourage ideas and creativity. Innovation will open doors to new strategies within your business. It will help you gain a competitive advantage because innovation naturally challenges the status quo. It helps you improve upon what you’re already bringing to the table. It even encourages using mistakes as a method to learn and grow.
It’s not enough to say you’re innovative. You must create space for it. Allow your employees to bring ideas to the table and provide them with the openness to present them. Innovation won’t happen overnight, so be patient. But it will be worth it, guaranteed.
Focus on your customers
New innovations and ideas should ultimately be tied to your customers’ experience with your company. Taking a customer-centric approach means looking at your business transactions from the viewpoint of those who use your products. It means stepping outside of the viewpoint of your business to understand what your customers are experiencing.
As you start to get into the mindset of your customers, it opens you up to new insights. It can help you identify their needs and goals. And it can help you see areas where you can solve their problems. It can help you make necessary improvements within your own business.
Change is inevitable. Rather than fight it, companies must embrace change to grow, adapt, and not become a dinosaur. And once you invite that change and use it to become better, you’ll ensure you aren’t just relevant in the market. It will make you a true leader.
Jim Allen is a business leader and entrepreneur who has built one of the top-producing real estate groups in the Triangle. He is President of The Jim Allen Group, which is consistently named one of the top real estate teams in North Carolina and even North America.