You probably haven’t heard of Fisher Body Company, but I’ll bet you’ve heard of General Motors. In less than ten years, Fred and Charles Fisher, went from being horse drawn carriage builders to starting their own company, Fisher Body Co., in 1908. With an eye on the future, the brothers took their knowledge of carriage building and applied it to “Ford’s contraption” making the first 50 bodies for Ford Motor Company. They built car bodies for most US car manufacturers until 1919, when GM purchased 60% of the company. Eventually, Fisher Body Co., employed over 100,000 people, housed in 40 buildings totaling 3.7 MM sf of manufacturing space in Detroit. If the two brothers, would have insisted on making a better horse carriage, rather than embracing obsolescence, things might have been a little different.
What happens when your number one product becomes obsolete? It will happen. Will you be in a better or worse position if you are the one driving the change? If you devote time and brain space to this question, you will be in the enviable position of understanding the market, your competition and the opportunity for your future.
By making the future a priority in your business you set yourself up for success. Too many times people get focused on the daily operations and do not make the time to think about the future. The mere thought of it can be overwhelming. Here are some handy questions to help you put your attention in the place that can do you the most good.
- What is your company’s short list of top products?
- Who are your top competitors?
- How are their products different from yours?
- Who is your fastest growing competitor?
- What problem do your best customers face that your products do not solve?
- What technology or other advancement is on the horizon or has been imagined for this problem? Finish the statement, “I wish I had…”
If you can answer the question, “Who is your fastest growing competitor?” that, by itself tells the most about the direction the market is headed. Find out how much of the market share each competitor had in the past, compared to now. If you can identify that company, study their products and start to look for what you might be able to do, to leap to the next level.
There are great resources available. The best ones are at your fingertips. Start with what you know. Answer the questions above, then talk to your employees, meet with your customers, study what you can find on the internet. To find out more information about your competitors, talk to the economist with your state’s employment department. State employment departments have a wealth of information. Another resource is Dunn & Bradstreet (D&B). D&B has databases focused on each industry and numerous areas of specialty including small business and geographic areas. An unusual resources of publicly available data is the New York Public Library. Finally, one of the most underutilized resources I know of is the US Census site, which now collects most of the data you will pay for from other sources.
Understanding your products as they relate to your competition and actively seeking ways to create the next generation of products is one way you can get your business to stand out from the rest. Make a habit, to regularly spend time focused on your future and you will be better prepared, more capable and better positioned for the future.
…And the moral of the story is…
Obsolescence is coming. You can be the one who drives change in your industry, go the way of the dinosaur or anything in between.
…Ways to connect with us…
MyZe Strategies offers a variety of online classes and onsite workshops for little or no cost. Our trained consultants and coaches can help you turn your business into the enterprise you dream of. Contact us for more information.