In today’s new economy businesses are learning to cope, survive, and even thrive. Change for most people is painful, but for entrepreneurs change can lead to the best of times. Most of the long term business owners I have worked with are linear thinkers. Their worldview involves fixed processes, and they need these fixed processes in order to function and succeed. The problem with the volatility in the economy today is that people need to be less linear and more entrepreneurial in their thinking in order to adapt their business model to this new economy: an economy with $4.00 a gallon gas, housing starts cut in half, and manufacturing and low level labor outsourced across international borders.

I think the key to understand how to properly adapt your business model is to define the niche of your business. Think of this niche as a box. In this analogy, one must define the sides of the box:

1. Exceeding client expectations should always be one of the first sides of the box. How do we impress our prospects or customers with results and experience? Many times we will face some initial resistance on changing the way we deliver our service in the new economy, so the results must speak for themselves.

2, 3, 4. Budget, Profit and Stakeholders. Are we sticking to a budget? Is the company making money? Are employees and customers happy? These three very interrelated concepts are yet three more sides of the box. If any of these concepts are compromised then our model will not be sustainable, which means capital will become exhausted and talent and customers will leave. Were this to happen, our business would not long endure, so these sides of the box are each in their turn very important.

5. DNA: do we have the people and talent to really get the job done? How can we leverage our people on a higher level to create more abundance for all? What are we doing that isn’t currently a part of the organization’s DNA that could easily create more value for the company if we stopped? I have found having worked with many companies over the years that just asking these two questions, “What could you get done if you didn’t do such-and-such anymore? What if you disengaged from that one client that costs so much time for so little return?” can bring forth enlightening answers. The overwhelming theme is relief, power, and the ability to tackle the biggest of challenges. Let’s face it: a business is just a group of persons working towards common goals. If the people in the group are happy, they can achieve goals that were once impossible.

6. Time: Our changes will take time to implement. Do we have enough time and resources to pull us through while we reinvent ourselves? Because while we do so, we may be experiencing resistance from our customers and other stakeholders. If we try to consider the worst case scenario and factor this into our box, we can take the necessary steps to prepare for the tough road ahead.

Anybody can “think outside the box”, especially with the premise that we have all the time, money, people, resources, talent and customers we would ever need. However, it is necessary to understand what is possible and to remain realistic about our goals and the business model we seek in this new economy. In order to do that, we must define and think within the box.

The box then becomes a tool that might require creativity and powerful insight but will allow us to come up with great and worthwhile ideas. For instance, we can brainstorm and keep those ideas which would fit inside our box. I find that for me, the idea of the box allows me to focus my mind on ideas that are more realistic with solutions that fit the task at hand.

Once ideas are written down they are liberated from the depths of the subconscious mind into the light of day. Watershed moments for a business may come out of ideas that are discovered and shared in this way.

It has always amazed me the power of the human mind to design and plan. The Big Guy knew what He was doing when He designed it Himself. Now go put yours to work!

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