Business Bites: Impermanence, change and business agility. Part 1

Nick Walsh FBDO
ABDO sector skills development officer

“Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it. If change is of the essence of existence one would have thought it only sensible to make it the premise of our philosophy,” W. Somerset Maugham

We do everything we can to maintain control over our lives, certainty over the unknowns, and comfort in our environments. We want things to stay exactly as they are because permanence feels secure.

According to the teachings of the Buddha, life is comparable to a river. It moves from cause to cause, effect to effect, one point to another, one state of existence to another, giving an outward impression that it is one continuous and unified movement, whereas in reality it is not. The river of yesterday is not the same as the river of today. The river of this moment is not going to be the same as the river of the next moment. Impermanence and change are therefore unavoidable.

In Five ways to design our lives for impermanence, VR Ferose tells us: “Accept impermanence as normal. Covid-19 has brought home to us the fickleness of our plans and the impermanence in our lives. Events postponed, travel cancelled, economy struggling, jobs at risk, and we are only in the beginning of what could be a long period of uncertainty. Planning for permanence will create more anxiety. Be prepared for change and work towards embracing whatever change comes your way. Being patient helps you think clearly and overcome a challenging situation”.

When we are in the midst of a negative experience over which we feel no control, being aware that all things are transient can help us through our struggle.

Dealing with change

The 3C model of Kenichi Ohmae, a renowned Japanese strategy guru, is a business model which focuses on three key success factors for change driven strategic success. Kenichi Ohmae states that these three factors must be in balance in the form of a strategic triangle. These three key factors for success are:
• The company
• The customer
• The competition

In theory it is possible to start with any of the 3Cs, but it is preferable to start with the customer, then the competition and finally the company. This avoids the temptation to measure the customer and competition by your own data rather than looking with an open mind at what could be done.

The customer

There are many possible routes to gaining insights and feedback from your customers and potential customers. These may include using (digital) questionnaires, reviews and platforms. A company can find out what customers are thinking and incorporate this information into strategic decisions.

The ABDO Business Support Hub has articles covering patient feedback including net promoter scores, mystery shopping, the importance of dealing effectively with customer feedback and quick wins on this. The use of answers from in-depth interviews, questionnaires and other sources will help gain insight into the consumer mind. Don’t forget to monitor your business’s online reputation through social media and online reviews.

Who is your ideal customer? Demographic data also plays a huge part in this patient analysis. Figuring out your business’s target market and their desires will drastically improve the success rate of your marketing strategies after they are put into circulation. Data such as disposable incomes, likes, dislikes, where they get information, if they make impulse buys or not, and even how they respond to the client service or product already available, is invaluable.

The competitors

Competitor analysis can be done by carrying out web searches for key phrases and products, by visiting their websites, subscribing to their newsletters, visiting their practices and/or receiving the service they offer. The latter may involve recruiting a member of your team or family if you are well known to your competitors.

Don’t forget to include online sellers, the local sunglasses seller, the pharmacy selling sunglasses and ready readers as well as other opticians. They are all potentially taking some of your business.

Analysing competing businesses in this manner will allow you an inside look into what their patient experience is. This knowledge is invaluable. You’ll be exposed to the good and bad decisions the competitor has made and you’ll be able to utilise that knowledge to know what areas of your business may need improvement – as well as things to avoid. This may include opening times, products, services, special offers, after sales support and so forth.

Your company

The last step you’ll want to take with the 3Cs method requires you to analyse your own business. You’ll want to know what products, services, offers and marketing strategies have worked in the past and what ideas have failed.

From the results of the customer and competitor analyses you have done so far, and the use of a tool such as a SWOT analysis, detail your business’s strong points and the resources which produce them – as well as the opportunities available to you. Any weaknesses or threats should also be considered in a manner whereby they can also be an opportunity, even if this needs a change of outlook.

“Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible,” Thich Nhat Hanh