Focus on the known constant, not the unknown variables

Over recent times, I have found myself challenging business owners to look at the amount of change that has occurred in their industry over the last five years – and then the five years before that. In doing so, I am trying to have them understand the rate of change and to be prepared for that exponential rate of change to continue. Further to that, I am challenging them to guess at what is likely to change in the coming five years.

While this is a worthwhile challenge, in many cases, it might be impossible to see what impacts and consequences change could have on their business in the coming period. Who would have guessed at the impact the internet was going to have on business 10 years ago? Did we see online shopping being what it is today? 3-d printing? You’re kidding!

However, a recent article quoting Amazon CEO, Geoff Bezos, throws that challenge on its head. A little online investigation shows that his comments have almost gone viral; being re-quoted by a number of business commentators. Rather than trying to guess what might change, why not try to look at what is unlikely to change? This is his take on the subject:

“I very frequently get the question: 'What's going to change in the next 10 years?' And that is a very interesting question; it's a very common one.

I almost never get the question: 'What's not going to change in the next 10 years?' And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two -- because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. ... [I]n our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that's going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection.

It's impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, 'Jeff I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher,' [or] 'I love Amazon; I just wish you'd deliver a little more slowly.' Impossible.

And so the effort we put into those things, spinning those things up, we know the energy we put into it today will still be paying off dividends for our customers 10 years from now.

When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.” ― Jeff Bezos Amazon

So, by all means look at what is likely to change in your business and in your industry, but more importantly, look at what is not likely to change and focus on those areas. Just as with Amazon, the seed of service delivery is probably going to be an ongoing issue with most businesses.

If this is the case with your business, how can you deliver more quickly and more efficiently than you are doing now? The second question would be: What other constants are you able to address that are likely to be of growing importance to your customers over future years?

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What John Matthew believes about small business

That the owner has risked many things that others take for granted;

That there is no guaranteed income or reward for the considerable effort that is required;

That often, the family home is on the line to support the business and its constituents;

That there is a dignity and self-respect that is earned;

That entire communities would be better places if there was an increased appreciation and respect for small business.

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