The De-Evolution of a Business

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The De-Evolution of a BusinessNot long ago I was with my friend, Nelson Griswold. He shared with me a phenomenon he referred to as the de-evolution of a business. It can mean the beginning of the end for a business, and it usually comes as a result of not listening to the company’s customers.

This pattern mirrors one found in the entertainment business—the four stages of an actor. Let’s say our actor’s name is John Smith. Four questions and statements sum up what I’m talking about:

  • At the unknown stage of his career, the question is: “Who is John Smith?”
  • Once he is discovered and becomes a sensation, the director makes a request: “Get me John Smith.”
  • He retires but is remembered. The new request is: “Get me someone like John Smith.”
  • One day, not too many years later, few people remember his career and we’re back to the question: “Who is John Smith?”

It’s the same in business. My friend Nelson Griswold refers to this business life cycle as the de-evolution of a business. It’s based on what experts refer to as the four stages of a business:

  1. Start-Up: This is where few people, if any, know who you are.
  2. Growth: This is a very exciting stage as the business is growing—hopefully booming.
  3. Maturity: At this stage, everyone is comfortable. However, there is little—if any—growth.
  4. Decline: Without growth, you risk becoming irrelevant to your customers. This is the beginning of the end.

Nelson feels that a mature business starts to decline when its leadership stops listening to their customers. They miss opportunities, don’t pay attention to feedback, make up excuses for why the company is performing badly and basically turn a blind eye to reality.

It’s the goal of every business to be successful. Getting to a state of maturity can be dangerous. Staying in growth mode, even if it is moderate, is the ideal. Growth needs to happen in two places. The first is product—what the company sells. We’ll assume it is a good product that customers want to buy. The second is the customer experience. This is the area with the highest risk. Innovation must take place to keep both the product and the customer experience relevant.

I can’t do much in the way of product advice, but you need to make sure it stays desirable. What I can share is that innovation in the customer experience is just as important as product innovation. What will set you apart from your competition is the service and experience you provide. Experience innovation is the secret. Ask yourself these two questions: What are you doing to escalate and grow your business? What are you doing to stay relevant?

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