By John Green The Hutchinson News, Kan.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) You may have heard these tips before but it never hurts to be reminded of what it takes to succeed. #EmbraceChange
The Hutchinson News, Kan.
In his years as editor of Entrepreneur magazine, he's identified three primary ways that entrepreneurs use change to their advantage, Jason Feifer told an audience at last week's Reno County Chamber of Commerce annual banquet.
Ask uncomfortable questions. "I used to ask a lot of questions, but if it was a logical question, I'd get logical answers," Feifer said. "It's amazing the opportunities when you push yourself into discomfort."
"Challenge the things industry does," he said. "Be willing to see what others don't; go where your competitors won't. But you'll only get there if you ask uncomfortable questions."
If the answer to "why are we doing this?" he said, is "because that's the way it's always been done", "that's a terrible answer," Feifer said. "Something can always be done better."
As editor of the magazine, he was responsible for creating its covers. But, Feifer said, he asked himself why he was designing the covers, and if it couldn't be done better. So, he hired a marketing firm, which showed him his covers were the same as his competitors and didn't stand out on newsstands.
"It got scary, but you have to keep pushing," he said. "They were throwing different ideas at me, trying to shake me out of my conventional way of thinking. They did. They made me and my whole team step back and think about what we could do differently. What doesn't look like everyone else on the rack?"
Since they changed the format, he said, newsstand sales have picked up and are consistently better than his competitors.
Play the long game -- even it hurts. "Blockbuster Video didn't see it coming," Feifer said, displaying a slide of a Blockbuster sign coming down. "They didn't see streaming and they didn't see DVDs in the mail. But that can't be the answer. They were smart people at Blockbuster. I think they saw it coming and couldn't' do anything about it."
What playing the long game for Blockbuster might have meant, Feifer said, was shutting down their stores because they projected out 10 years and knew the future was going to destroy them.
"Sacrifice that and invest in the future because that's what's coming," he said. "Take the pain now. You're not in it for the short term, but the long term."
He also used the example of Dogfish IPA.
The founder started with a 90 minutes IPA, "which was very popular but put people on the floor" because of its alcohol content. So, he switched to a 60 minute IPA.
"People loved it and wanted it," Feifer said. "Every bar wanted his beer, every retailer wanted his beer. Very quickly sales spiked to the point Dogfish was projecting this beer was going to be 80 percent of its sales."
The creator, Sam Calagione, however, didn't want that, because he recognized people's tastes change and if his company was known for only the one beer his sales could end as quickly as they rose. He capped sales of 60 Minute IPA to half of what he sold.
"That meant saying no to a lot of people," Feifer said. "Retailers were calling for beer and Sam was saying no. Amtrak called for his beer, and he said no. Walking around with Sam in Delaware, people were furious they couldn't get his beer. But Sam never wavered. Instead, he introduced more beers and became known as an innovative brand.
"He sold the company last year for $30 million," Feifer said. "That would not have happened if he'd not played the long game. He was willing to take short term pain because he understood the game is not on easy wins."
Discard what worked yesterday. "If it worked, it was great, but doesn't work now, say goodbye," Feifer advised. "It sounds easy, but it's really, really hard."
To do so, don't think that you're starting over, Feifer said.
"You're not starting at square one," he said. "What you're doing is taking advantage of insight you have that no one else does. You've been doing it long enough you can see why it's not working. You have the data to realize you're farther along the journey and you've got to evolve. See it as an opportunity."
He used the example of a waterproof Bluetooth speaker he was looking for his shower. He found one online, but it was a brand he'd never heard of.
Through his persistence, Feifer tracked down the seller, a man named Heim.
"Heim was in the camera phone business, which worked well for a little bit, and then he moved to camera accessories," Feifer said. "That was OK for a while, and then it wasn't. Then he went into a broader set of accessories.
"He was selling this stuff on Amazon and as he was doing that, he made a transformative observation," he said. "He noticed if you look at the reviews of products on Amazon, everyone says they really like this speaker, but they wish it was waterproof, or a clock they wished had bigger numbers. This was not just a place to sell things, but a gigantic free R&D department where all the customers were telling you what they wanted you to make."
He found a manufacturer in China and asked what it would take to make the speaker, and he called it Hype and put it on Amazon.
He built a $100 million business, having "a bunch of Orthodox Jews and one Italian guy who works from home" sitting on computers reading reviews and identifying products to make. The company grew from CNA Marketing to CNA Global, with offices around the world.
"Always be willing to discard what worked yesterday in favor of what might work tomorrow," Feifer said.
"I hear stories of people facing very difficult decisions, when the future of the company is in the balance," he said. "A lot of you are facing that. Change happens here, in your community, in our country, in our economy. We all grapple with it."
"Embrace change. Work constantly to remind yourself what that means, the challenge of it and the immense opportunities of it. To resist change it to be forgotten. To embrace change is to build something amazing. I hope you will change, as I will change." ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.