Adapt, change or your business will die

My Kindle

My Kindle

I have had my own business for nearly eleven years. It hardly seem possible. However, it is not the same business I started. In the beginning I hardly used email to correspond with clients. It wasn’t that I was an old dinosaur; I have been using email since around 1989. No, it is just that it was not what my clients expected back then. Many of them were not computer literate anyway. Some still are not, but we can cater for them.

Eleven years ago I would not send documents for approval by email either. That was largely because we did not have an easy format such as PDF which we have today. I used the telephone a lot more although it is still important to talk to clients, or rather, to listen.

We didn’t receive so much in the way of services through the Government Gateway on-line a decade back. All my clients were local. Now I have clients from the UK to New Zealand and from Honduras to South Africa.

All this is possible because the world has changed, and also necessary because there is less “local” business of the sort which is interesting or profitable. I have adapted and changed because if my business had stayed the same in terms of offerings, service and the way those services were delivered it would have been broke. Milkmen are a rarity because there is no demand. People buy their milk at the supermarket.

I hope I do not seem unkind, but this week I had one of those on-line petition emails from some booksellers who were petitioning for Amazon to pay more tax. Yet I am sure the reason for their knocking Amazon was because Amazon is eating into their business. I feel sorry for the booksellers, but we cannot run our businesses as museum pieces., because we will make no money.

Some booksellers have moved half their premises over to selling coffee to encourage the browsing client, something I first saw this approach in Dallas more than a dozen years ago. I am not sure if this still works, but surely it is the browsing public who would still buy books in bookshops, where they would choose a good read? If you know what book you want you buy it One-Click through Amazon, or it is delivered to your Kindle. You do not go to the High Street to see if the local shop might have it.

In business we cannot blame others if our sales are weak. We need to change or get out and start anew with something else. How have you changed your business to move with the times?

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Lack of success and the blame game

English: A Dairy Crest ex-Unigate Wales & Edwa...

A Dairy Crest ex-Unigate Wales & Edwards Rangemaster Milk Float. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


It is easy to lay the blame for business failure at someone else’s door, but usually it is an excuse. Sometimes bystanders to a disaster blame other businesses.

It is not so long ago that from the early hours we were used to the sound of milk floats in our streets. When I was very small, our milk was delivered by a milkman with a horse-drawn float. You don’t see many milkmen or women delivering now. I think there are one or two customers in our area, but most people get their milk in the supermarket because it is convenient when doing the weekly shop. Some might debate whether that is progress, but it doesn’t matter. The world has changed.

I hear business owners complaining about Amazon who are apparently ruining the book trade, at least according to them. Of course they do sell a lot of books and e-readers, and many bookshops where people used to browse are struggling. However, Amazon does provide an outlet for independent booksellers to sell through.


I am not “defending” Amazon. They are part of the new world in which we live. They were a novelty when I first bought books from them in 1995, which were not published in the UK. Now they sell books and almost everything else including cat food at good prices, and they are convenient. No one would wish to travel and to spend more to keep someone in business who cannot adapt.

I do not mean to be unkind, but there is not a lot of call for basket-weavers except for specialist craft fairs and that is because there is not a lot of demand for wicker baskets. We have to offer what people actually want, give them value and allow to have their product or service with the least effort and the most comfort.

When I were a lad…

When I first worked in tax, we completed all the Tax Returns by hand. Two or three decades ago software allowed these to be prepared on computers and of course, saved, potentially altered and amended all without crossings out or Tippex.

Some older tax preparers retired rather than adapt to use computers. Even in the last ten years, “professionals” really did fill in Tax Returns by hand. Even without the earlier deadlines for submission of paper returns, the businesses of these old-fashioned people ceased to be cost-effective.

Why are people not prepared to adapt rather than lose their businesses? My father is over ninety and orders his shopping on-line and browses the website of his favourtite football team? Technology can be mastered by most people.

Keeping our eyes peeled

I think it unlikely that businesses are still failing because they are anti-computers and anti-technology, I do know that we all have to keep an eye out for trends, follow where our businesses are going, and sometimes realise that we are in a dying sector and get out or move to ride the wave.

Businesses must adapt or they will wither away. We all need to anticipate change and be ready, don’t you agree?


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