If we’re innovators, why are we going after old models?
Innovation is easy to please. All it asks is for you to be open to new possibilities and new ways of doing things; and much like your new lover, who asks that you never once dream of your ex, it wants you to let go of the past.
Most young entrepreneurs fancy themselves to be game changers, and sometimes they really do approach their businesses with new models that cut costs, increase flexibility, and make them appealing to their target audience. A business model describes how an organisation creates, delivers and harnesses value, so as a game changer the aim is to manipulate models to create alternatives that are effective and strategic. You can’t be a game changer and play by the same, old rules.
However, there’s something I’ve noticed with some people. Even though their innovative business model is working, as is, and has numerous benefits, they fall into the trap of doing things the old way. Let’s take an online-driven business for example. You’re selling books via Facebook or a website, delivering items to customers who pay upon receipt, and business is growing. What’s your benchmark of success? Increasing online presence and sales, and becoming a sort of mini Amazon.com, or seeing a brick and mortar bookstore in Port of Spain that bears your name?
“You can’t be a game changer and play by the same, old rules.”
If this model severely cuts costs like rent, salespersons, utilities, and other taxes, and brings you closer to your customers, enabling them to make quicker purchasing decisions and feel more satisfied with having goods delivered to them, why move to that brick and mortar model? You can capitalise on your ‘word of mouse’ momentum, increase visibility, and use the money that would have gone into these overheads to boost your business. So why create more workflows than required?
Ultimately, business models seek to create value for customers, society and of course the business owners. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but if you can do it differently and cut costs, why not? It doesn’t matter whether your methods are simple; if they work, there’s no need to complicate things.
Sometimes we don’t realise just how much the old way of doing things affects our thinking. We’re all gung-ho to approach things differently, but the danger is that the old model of success is so imprinted in the recesses of our minds that it becomes our ultimate goal, as opposed to the destination we bypass. I’m not saying that there’s something wrong with wanting a physical operation, or using tried and true methods. However, it only makes sense… if it makes sense. And if it makes sense, be sure to give it some sort of unique appeal.
Business success will always be measured by growth and value – not by mimicking the image of success.
I’ve noticed a few operations, whose value proposition and appeal were based on bringing goods and services at customers’ fingertips through social media and other online channels, and have moved to a full, physical operation. The new focus is on the physical operation, thereby decreasing online distribution, and basically having to redirect and convince customers, because people now have to come to them, when it was so much easier to connect using the full, online model. All that does is set back a young business from a financial and marketing aspect. It also takes away what drew people to you in the first place – this different model of yours.
“The old model of success is so imprinted in the recesses of our minds.”
Now this isn’t an online vs. physical discussion. It’s simply an example meant to show that in shaping our ultimate goals, we should also consider whether they constrain or open us to greater possibilities. Experimentation is absolutely necessary. Music artistes have learned this with the advent of digital downloads, and iTunes becoming the new music charts.
I’m no business guru. Neither do I consider myself an entrepreneur. When I started Outlish, I did it because it was something I wanted to do since I was a teenager. I had nothing to prove to anyone. Being strictly online made sense for me because I literally live in front of a computer screen all day, and the start-up costs were extremely low. I didn’t pay attention to what other publications were doing. I just created a magazine I would read. That was my only focus. I also experimented with content, and just said, “let’s see what happens”. Now that it has been embraced so quickly, I now find myself challenged to create a business, and a model that supports it.
People have asked me if I’ll move to a print version of Outlish and the answer is a definite no. Would I ever do a special, print version? Yes. However, I won’t change the current model, which provides flexibility, or my ad hoc, organic approach.
I believe that when given the opportunity to chart your own course, chart your own course you should. Young businesspersons have the opportunity to do things their way, use unconventional methods, merge the conventional with the unconventional, where required, and create their own operation models. A few local examples of this can be seen with companies like Market Movers and NIQ Fashion. If you’re looking to start your own business, build your business around your customers’ needs… and yours, create your benchmark of success, and move at a pace you can manage.
Don’t do what you think others expect you to do. Do you. Be authentic. Ignore the old mindsets that don’t work for you or mesh with your personal philosophy. You might trip while trying, and you may take a little longer to make it to the finish line, but if you approach things in a way that suits your customers, your development as a self-starter, and your ability to develop and manage your business/ hustle/ project sustainably, then ignore the models that tell us we need to go out with the new and in with the old.
So what if people are watching you and doubting you. Trust your gut, because it’s telling you something for a very good reason.
Image courtesy Corbis.com.