Monday, June 14, 2010

Adaptability

This may seem obvious, but business isn't about who can do the neatest thing - it's about expectations and delivery. In other words, your customer has an expectation that you'll meet their needs; and you have to deliver on your statement that you can meet that need. This doesn't have to be a retail business. In fact, any business transaction falls under that statement.

But sometimes business professionals just don't get this aspect of their jobs, careers, or their business (if they own one). As a result, they get mired in the past while their peers leap ahead of them because they are willing to embrace the future or at least the present. Consider, as an example, the publishing business. With the ever growing (and I'll claim that it still is growing) use of the Internet as a source of information, publications find themselves in an interesting position: do they continue the part of their business that is the printed publication?

I asked Gary Paris, publisher of Contemporary Bride magazine, about this. He and I had an interesting discussion some days before where I made the statement that the business of printed publications is a dead one, and he countered that there was still a place for it. Having thought about it, I realized that he had a good point so I asked him to elaborate.

"The lesson that was learned by many people in business is that is very important to embrace new ideas and technology to survive in any business climate. The same lesson can be applied to the publishing industry. While many publishers do not embrace new ideas and business models, the publishers of niche magazines like Contemporary Bride do. It is a matter of survival, plain and simple. We feel that by placing a high quality magazine with great content, such as featured articles and real wedding stories, it will always keep the attention of the reader regardless of the age."

Gary stated that the medium doesn't matter as long as the need is met. And, for the publishing industry, sometimes the need is to have something in their hands, to examine closely, hold, touch, etc. However, he recognized that people like to have options available, and so he adapted his business to account for the Internet. Of greatest interest is his statement that it is a matter of survival to be able and willing to adapt. Without a willingness to adapt to stay on par with current trends, your credibility suffers. And when that happens, a customer's ability to envision you delivering on your promise to meet their needs lapses as well.

Just today I read a great article in Wired Magazine (online, no doubt) about a company that is aiming to kick out the heavyweights in server manufacturing by replacing the high power consuming CPUs (Xeon, Itanium, or Opteron chips) with a collection of much lower power consuming Intel Atom. I mention this here because it demonstrates how this business realized that by changing the means of attack that the traditional hardware companies have used they could develop a compelling reason for businesses to look at them as a viable alternative. It remains to be seen, of course, how successful they will be with this particular venture, but the outlook is promising.

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