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Learning when to adapt

Monday, 31 October 2011 | By Mark Campbell

It seems that one of the hardest things to learn when starting a new business is when to adapt and change your plans to meet the challenges that come with getting a new venture off the ground.


We've encountered this a couple of times since beginning the Shooii project; times where we've hit roadblocks and had to ask ourselves if we should persevere with a particular course of action, or change direction and adjust our strategies.


This can be a truly challenging decision to make, and it raises a lot of questions, like "how long should you stick with something if it's not working out?", "How will people react to the change?", and "Will a change in direction deliver a different outcome?".


On top of all these question, it can be just plain scary to make changes to your business planning when you have been working so hard to do things a certain way. There's also the risk of getting disheartened if you feel that you've invested a lot of work and time for what can sometimes feel like little return.


However, it is probably true in most start-ups that there will come a time when you will have to make adjustments to your business plan, and so you shouldn't let it affect your confidence and passion. It is a test, but one that can be overcome if you strengthen your resolve and keep at it.


I recently read an interview with some high profile angel investors from the US, and one of them mentioned that the main thing they look for when investing is quality people, rather than just picking the best idea. A big part of the reason for this is that the investor found that in almost every start-up, the initial idea would have to be changed significantly along the way and in the end it was the people who could manage this change that were ultimately successful.


So the question then becomes, how do you stay nimble enough to be able to change direction when needed?


I'm sure it's not easy even for many small businesses, but here's a few things that have helped us:

  • Setting up a culture that encourages constantly pushing forward – learning from our losses but not dwelling on them.
  • Having a board of directors who show support and trust in our ability.
  • A huge dose of belief in the business and determination not to be stopped.
  • Sticking true to the core goals of the company – which for us is creating a great customer experience – while adjusting other pieces.

In the end as daunting as it can be to make the tough decision to change direction, it can also revitalise the business and give you renewed energy as you roll up your sleeves and get on with pursuing your new goals.