Every smart business owner knows that a business plan is a must and it needs to be reviewed and adjusted for customer demands and market changes. However, the biggest question many business owners both large and small struggle with is when to go from tweaking to overhauling a plan completely and coming up with a new business model.
The reality is that many of us don’t make that decision until it is too late. Too often, the realization that a change should be made doesn’t occur until the business is failing or has already failed.
Look at the history of the Upstate economy, and that story is easily seen. The majority of Upstate counties relied heavily on textiles to provide jobs and drive their economic engines for decades. Greenville, which was considered the textile capital of the world, broke ranks in the 1970s and began to diversify its economic base. So, when textiles started to crash, Greenville’s economy was not hit nearly as hard as the rest of the Upstate.
Of course, not all textile companies suffered. Spartanburg-based Milliken and Greenville-based Kentwool changed to business models that focused on new and unique products that have allowed both of them to prosper.
Find the need
Those are large companies, but smaller businesses can do the same. When I came to Greenville almost 20 years ago to join Computer Direct Outlet, the company was focused mainly on selling computer parts. We have adapted our business over time to focus more on the service end of the spectrum and to provide a better overall experience for our business customers.
To this end, we created a new division called Computer Direct Business, which focuses on making sure that each client has a great experience and gets the server, professional workstation, computers and service they want and need. That concept led Computer Direct to create and manufacture its own workstations known as Volta, which have garnered national acclaim from magazines such as Tom’s Guide, Cadalyst and Desktop Engineering.
A few years ago, we noticed a need in the market for our experience, technical skill sets, and friendly and knowledgeable staff to add real value to our business customers’ buying and service/warranty experiences. The idea behind Volta is to take a complex process like designing workstations for a tech business and make it straightforward and understandable. Volta represents our new web platform, which help clients make informed decisions and buy computers that fit their individual needs.
Make the change
In some ways, the easy part of changing a business model is finding the need. The real challenge comes in implementation. Here are some things that worked for us.
Separate the new division from the rest of the business.
Computer Direct Business provides our business customers with a different experience than Computer Direct Outlet. That was important, because in order for it to grow, it needed to be treated differently. It couldn’t be a spare or part-time part. It needed its own life with its own work culture and goals. Giving it a new name — even if it was a tweak in the name — helped make that transition more real.
Bring in new blood.
To help Computer Direct Business find its own identity, I realized we couldn’t treat it like the old business. I got some mentors and found smart businesspeople to provide fresh ideas. They helped me see the new division in a different light. That was key, but it is not a one-time thing. I constantly bring in new people to make sure we are growing smartly.
Focus on design.
Flawless hardware has always been the trademark of Computer Direct, but with business division comes a new focus of aesthetic details, better user experiences and design simplicity.
Realize success is now different.
When you have an established business, you know what success looks like. You have a history to compare with. A new business obviously doesn’t have that history, but it is tempting to compare your new model to the old one. We created new metrics and new systems to measure success for Computer Direct Business because of that need.
Don’t stop innovating.
Just because you brought in new people, created new metrics and developed a new brand, doesn’t mean you are done. You have to keep innovating and making changes.