dealing with change

The Constancy of Change

Independent distributors and rental operators are beginning feel the impact of major shifts in purchasing which are occurring today.  We’re all aware of closings of hundreds of retail stores as business shifts to the web.   Some Independent businesses have seen margins depressed as a result of on-line shopping.  Some distributors have lost national or regional accounts to on-line “uniform” companies.  Some rental operators have seen customers shift to purchasing rather than renting uniforms.

Without exception, the shift in purchasing methods will affect everyone sooner than later.  Whatever success a business is having now must be weighed against what the market will reflect in another year or two. Subtle changes are going on right now, which will compound into larger changes in a relatively short time frame.  It’s like the “drip, drip, drip” of water on a stone. Before you know it, the stone is worn down to a pebble.

Today’s buyers and purchasing agents are constantly searching for better ways to do their jobs; any improvements they discover will be incorporated into their policies and best practices.  As the changes keep adding up, we experience a major shift change in the way they do business.  You now have very educated, technically savvy people looking for superior methods to obtain results.  If we don’t acknowledge this reality today, we will get farther and farther behind those that “Get It”.

Most shifts in Business Practices are the result of a buildup of circumstances that, in review, were totally predicable. Shifts normally do not come all at once without warning signs. It is incumbent upon today’s leaders to notice these minor trends, patterns and issues that will affect their customers buying habits.

You don’t have to be genius to know technology was becoming increasingly important in managing inventory, doing competitive research, increasing buyer education, upgrading company’s images, etc. The smart leaders took advantage of these changes from their inception.  They build more interactive websites, hired professional digital marketing companies, designed easy navigation systems, worked with their vendors and constantly updated their “easy to do business with” methods.   And they implemented these changes in a step by step manner.  But they kept “Stepping” to keep ahead of the ever changing curve.

We should now look at what we are currently doing successfully or unsuccessfully and figure out what to improve, what to eliminate, and what to create to be prepared for the future. A close examination of what tomorrow’s business leaders will want and need will be a direct indicator of the Independents’ success or failure rate.

In looking at Independent operators and distributors, we’re seeing rental operators add direct sell customer facing websites selling what they rent and more.  We’re seeing distributors add on-line websites that often serve an entirely different client base.  These companies are embracing change with amazing results.

As a side note, the same rule applies to failure rates as to successful rates. Failure does not come in major shifts.  Failure to notice change and inaction can take you into insolvency drip by drip. Do not sit still. Do not rely on what you did yesterday as the proper path for the future and do not ever think today’s buyers or purchasing decisions will remain constant. The only thing that is constant is Change.

Ron Evans, CEO, RJ Evans & Associates