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StrategyDriven Innovation Article

Important Lessons You Can Learn from Past Successful Products

In business, success is never a one-time achievement. You want to reach the level of success you aim for and then stay at that level – if not advance further – to remain successful. It is not uncommon for businesses to revise their objectives every few years; some even do it every year.

Maintaining success is often more difficult than becoming successful in the first place. You now have something to lose as the leader of the market. In this article, we are going to look at the important lessons about maintaining success from products that were successful on the market.

Always Listen to the Customers

The moment you stop listening to the customers is the moment you will start failing on the market. Just because you have a successful product, doesn’t mean you can keep customers happy without doing anything. This is a trap that may businesses have fallen for in the past, and one that you should never fall victim to today.

You only need to look at the iPod 6th-Generation review on ArgyllFreePress.com to know what I’m talking about. The iPod was one of the most successful lines of products on the market. The iPod 6 is at the top of that long history, offering incredible performance to people who didn’t need an iPhone.

Unfortunately, there were some important market demands that the iPod didn’t meet. The lack of better DAC and the fact that some apps will not even work on the iPod disappointed some avid fans of the product. Apple failed to listen to its customer base, turning the iPod 6 into a mixed bag of success and failure on the market.

Learn and Innovate

Success is often considered the most dangerous comfort zone of them all. Once you are successful – or see yourself as being successful – you start feeling more and more comfortable about the position. It doesn’t take long before the lure of being in a comfort zone gets to you.

We’ve had so many cases of market giants being defeated because of this issue. Toyota took over the American market from GM. Samsung started winning in Asian markets with new and innovative products. The same occurrences can even be seen in competitions between small businesses and startups.

Be Flexible

There is no sure-fire way to maintain success. You can’t have a strategy and expect it to remain effective on the face of market changes. You can’t be stubborn and stick to the old ways when there is a certain need for change.

Be flexible. Being flexible is one of the most important keys to maintaining success. It goes hand in hand with the need to learn and innovate; the business has to remain agile and you as the entrepreneur need to promote that agility.

The only thing that must never change is the “why”; the main reason why you entered the market in the first place. It is the heart of the business. Stick to your principles, use the tips we covered in this article, and stay successful for longer, even in today’s volatile market.

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article

Three Successful Entrepreneurs: The One Thing They’d Have Done Differently

It can be assumed that if you manage to make your business into a success, you made the right call at every point. You can look back over the road to your current position and feel happy, confident that everything went exactly as you planned it.

Except, that’s not necessarily the case.

One of the key traits of a successful entrepreneur is someone who understands what they have done correctly, yes. However, perhaps the most important ability is to understand what they have done wrong. To paraphrase an old quote; those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

For prospective entrepreneurs, learning the missteps of those who made their business flourish can provide invaluable insight. So, taken from three very different industries, let’s delve deeper into the one thing three very successful business owners wish they had done differently.

THE CRAFTY ONE

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Anna, 42, began her business completely by accident – and those are her words!

“I made a blanket for a friend of mine,” she explains. “They put a photo of it on Instagram, and it went sort of viral really – or as viral as a blanket can anyway! The home community really embraced it and my friend put me in touch with people who wanted to buy their own.”

Now in her second year of business, Anna’s company is flourishing and now employs three members of staff. “We work remotely,” she says, “they do a lot of the marketing side – that’s not really my thing. I like to make the blankets and I take some of the photos too. It’s definitely important to hire people you trust, who can do things that you can’t.”

So what does she wish she’d done differently?

“There was a time when I had so many orders that I couldn’t meet them all,” she reflects, with a tone of regret in her voice. “I ended up having the orders be late, and there were some angry customers as a result of it. The one piece of advice I’d give is that communication is everything,” she emphasizes the last point. “If you’re going to be late, tell people. I didn’t and some of those I was late with never bought from me again. It’s by far my biggest regret.”

BUILDING SUCCESS

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

“I knew from the moment I started working as a bricklayer that I wanted more,” Michael, who is 58 and has owned his company for 22 years, “it just wasn’t good enough for me.”

To try and pursue his idea of working for himself, Michael went back to school. “It was tough,” he says, “I’d been earning a steady income for a few years by the time I went back. I had to juggle that job and the course, which messed my life up for awhile. I needed business qualifications, though, and that was the only way to get them.”

By the time Michael was in his early thirties, he had some business acumen and managed to convince a bank manager to take a risk on him. “I got a startup loan,” he explains, “I think the guy liked me. Doesn’t work like that anymore, but back then, you could convince someone to take a shot. Thankfully he did, and now I employ about 20 staff permanently and another extra 10 laborers over summer. I’ve been lucky.”

So what does he consider his biggest mistake?

“Not being quick enough to adapt,” he admits. “Being an older guy, I got a bit stuck in my ways about a decade ago and lost some business because of it. I was really resistant to things like laser surveillance and Turbo Sockets. It was slowing construction projects down, especially when I was doing renovations and speed was of the essence. The solutions were there – I just didn’t want them,” he laments. “I was convinced the ‘old way’ was the best way,” Tony continues. “I shouldn’t have done it. Move with the times. The annoying thing is that when I did, I realized how much easier those kind of gadgets can make life – what an idiot,” he rolls his eyes at his former self. “Now I’m the first one jumping in when there’s some new gadget I can play with. Customers don’t respect you if you don’t innovate.”

So don’t be afraid to adapt to changing times? “Absolutely,” he concurs. “Times change. If you don’t change with them, you’re done for.”

THE STYLED EYE

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Melody, who is now 30, has run her personal style consultancy for three years after a slow start. “I’m no more qualified now for anything than when I left school at 18,” she admits. “I didn’t even have relevant experience!”

She works for herself, though took on a secretary in January. An accountant does her annual tax returns, but the rest is up to her. “My biggest mistake is thinking that wasn’t possible,” she explains. “I was involved in a business in the same industry for a few years. I hated it, but I was so scared to try and go it alone.”

So how did she manage it? “I saved everything I could,” she recalls. “It wasn’t quick – it took me about a year to get all the cash I needed. I had to forgo my social life for awhile, which was tricky, and I got delayed as I took three months out when I had my daughter.”

Nevertheless, she managed to build up “about six months’” worth of expenses in savings. “With that behind me,” she continues, “I quit the company and cashed out my shares. They weren’t worth a lot, but it was a jumping off point. Then I started marketing myself as an individual to clients. About 40% chose to come with me, which is more than I ever dreamed.”

Establishment didn’t come quickly for Melody though; it wasn’t until her third year – the most recent – she turned a profit she could live on. “I’m okay now,” she says, “I got into some debt and had to double down and work hard, but it’s clear and all is looking good. I’m booked up for the next three months anyway! If I had my time again, I’d definitely take the jump to working by myself much faster – I’d be so much further along by now if I’d done that.”

Hopefully there’s some lessons from this trio of entrepreneurs’ that you can take into your own adventures in business!

Lessons Learned from Corporate Branding and Rebranding Efforts of Note

Lesson: Don’t fix what’s not broken
Coca-Cola learned not to tamper with a beloved brand in 1985 when it decided to re-stage its iconic brand with “New Coke.” The public was outraged and let Coca-Cola know they didn’t want a “new” Coke. They wanted their old Coke, literally a quintessential icon in American popular culture. Coke responded within a few months and brought back “Classic Coke.” Classic Coke sales rebounded. Although New Coke remained on the shelves, it eventually faded from store shelves. Some commentators felt the move to New Coke was a marketing gimmick to regenerate interest and sales in the brand after sales erosion due to the “Pepsi Challenge” taste test campaign. Don Keough, company President, responded to the charge saying “We’re not that dumb, and we’re not that smart”.

Lesson: Expansion may require a bigger umbrella
International Harvester changed its name to Navistar International in 1986 when it sold its farm equipment business and entered the truck, diesel engine, and bus markets. Although the name is “made up,” it broadened the brand and has strong connotations of movement and direction. As a 2013 company report* stated, “Navistar was selected as a name with a strong sound, a resonance to Harvester, and a connection to its root words “navigate” and “star.” It does all of those things and has since become the name of the holding company over multiple Navistar divisions, International Trucks, and MaxxForce Diesel engines.


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About the Author

CEO Miller IngenuityWith more than three decades of management, executive, consulting and speaking experience in markets all over the world, Miller Ingenuity CEO Steve Blue is a globally regarded business growth authority and ‘turnaround specialist’ who has transformed companies into industry giants and enthralled audiences with his dynamic keynotes. In his upcoming book, Outdo, Outsmart… Outlast: A Practical Guide to Managed, Measured and Meaningful Growth, he reveals why seeking growth and surviving growth are equally perilous, and require different sets of plans to weather the storms. Steve may be reached at www.StevenLBlue.com.

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor Hank Moore

The Big Picture of Business: The Colonel and Me

Business Know-How Comes From Experience – The Value of Life-Long Mentoring.
 
This article is about:

  • Lessons that I learned to last a lifetime.
  • The value of acquiring and benefiting from mentors.
  • That inescapable quotient of wisdom and life-long learning.

The year was 1959. I was the bright young disc jockey at a radio station. I was being groomed by my mentors to be a White House advisor, which I later became.

Colonel Harlan Sanders entered my life. I was 11. He was 65. I only met him once. He influenced my life. I later reorganized his company. I became him, after a fashion, since I am 65 now.

The Colonel had just founded a fast food empire called Kentucky Fried Chicken. He was heralded as an entrepreneur who was also a senior citizen.

My entertainment mentors were Cactus Pryor and Bob Gooding. The 24-year-old newscaster at the radio station was Bill Moyers. He told me that I must think like a world-class visionary, grow into the role and not just remain a radio DJ.

In 1959, radio stations used to do live remotes from advertisers’ locations. The first which I attended was at the Armstrong-Johnson Ford dealership. The second was at what was the fourth KFC franchise to open in the United States. It occupied one counter at 2-J’s Hamburgers, an established Austin restaurant, owned and operated by Ralph Moreland.

There I was on live radio, interviewing Colonel Sanders about his new business enterprise. Rather than discussing the taste of the food, I asked about his desired legacy and the Big Picture goals of the organization. Already thinking like a visionary then, I asked the bigger questions. I still ask them, while most people are more comfortable in discussing the trivialities.

The KFC empire grew, and a burgeoning fast food industry engulfed it. There became too many competitors, too much franchising, too much hype and just as many who exited the industry as quickly as they entered it.

Fast forward 20 years to 1979. I was retained to come in and analyze the strategy and structure of the KFC corporation, asked to recommend changes and improvements. That’s what I do for businesses of all sizes. I come in after the wrong consultants have given bad advice, after knee-jerk reactions to changing business climates had taken tolls on existing market players.

By 1979, there were other players dominating the fried chicken niche. Nationally, there were Popeye’s and Church’s. Locally, we had Frenchy’s and Hartz. And then there were the players in the burger wars, who were adding chicken items to their menus.

Over at KFC, the Colonel had long ago sold his interest to a corporation and remained on the payroll as a commercial spokesman. Colonel Sanders died in 1979. Meetings commenced at headquarters about the future direction of the company and the product. The corporate owner was a liquor company. Its CEO (John Y. Brown, later to become Governor of Kentucky) asked me to envision the overall future of the fried chicken industry, not just the KFC ‘brand.’

I commissioned focus groups. They verified what I already knew: that KFC had too much of a white suburban image. By downplaying the Colonel on the packaging and amplifying the taste of the food, we had opportunities to broaden the KFC appeal.

I opined that we needed to go after minority consumers and aggressively build stores in inner-city neighborhoods. To test the premise, I staged a focus group dinner meeting at a prominent inner-city church, eliciting ideas and insights. One resulting project was ‘KFC Kalendar,’ an advertising campaign that showcased community events and public service announcements to diverse communities. I wrote editions of the Kalendar for radio and newspapers. Its recognition and success evolved into the national ad campaign: “We Do Chicken Right.”

KFC was a watershed in my career (at that point 21 years long). It influenced what I’ve preached for the last 30+ years: determine who your stakeholders are. Learn all that you can about your customers, their customers and those affected by them. Extend your business model beyond what it once was and into new sectors. The branding does not drive the strategy but instead is a sub-sub-sub set of Big Picture strategy, which must drive all business disciplines.

Here is some closing wisdom, connecting back to 1959. I juxtapose my advice to some of the records that we were playing on the radio when doing that live remote from the grand opening of that early KFC franchise. These insights still hold impact on the business culture of today. These come from the Golden Oldies music of that era:

  • “Did he ever return? No, he never returned. Yet his fate is still unlearned. He may ride forever through the streets of Boston. He’s the man who never returned.” Song by the Kingston Trio. (Pursuing the same strategies, year after year, yields you the same predictable outcomes and shortcomings.)
  • “And they call it puppy love.” Song by Paul Anka. (Living in a fantasy without viewing the realities of the marketplace sets companies up for failure.)
  • “Higher than the highest mountain, and deeper than the deepest sea. Softer than the gentle breezes, and strongest than the wide oak tree. Faithful as a morning sunrise, and sacred as a love can be. That’s how I will love you. Oh darling, endlessly.” Song by Brook Benton. (An empowered workforce must support the corporate objective, and the art with which it does spells success.)
  • “I told her that I was a flop with chicks. I’d been that way since 1956. She looked at my palm and she made a magic sign. She said what you need is Love Potion Number Nine.” Song by The Clovers. (Research tells us that only 2% of all consultants are real advisers. Most are vendors who prescribe what kool-aid that they’re selling. Business coaches and their ilk are to be avoided.)
  • “Who walked in with Mary Jane, lipstick all a mess. Were you smooching my best friend, if the answer’s yes. Bet your bottom dollar, you and I are through. Cause lipstick on your collar told a tale on you.” Song by Connie Francis. (Ethics cannot be edicted from afar. The ethical conduct of business has a direct relationship on the ability to grow and prosper.)
  • “Hold me tight and don’t let go. Thunder, lightning, wind and rain. This feeling’s killing me. I won’t stop for a million bucks. If it wasn’t for having you, I’d be barking in Harlem too. Don’t let go.” Song by Roy Hamilton. (Sustainability of a growth strategy breeds steady, measured success.)
  • “When you’re near me, my head go goes all around. My love comes tumbling down. You’ve got what it takes to set my soul on fire. You’ve got what it takes for me.” Song by Marv Johnson. (66.7% of all businesses cannot grow any further. Learn when enough growth is enough.)
  • “Venus, goddess of love that you are. Surely, the things I ask cannot be too great a great task.” Song by Frankie Avalon. (Building corporate cultures and successful businesses means making and sticking to commitments.)
  • “Here I stand in my world of dreams. You don’t know how much I care. You don’t know the torch I bear. You don’t know how much I care. Yes and here I stand.” Song by Wade Flemons. (Corporate cultures depend upon real-time conditions, projected outcomes and policies that promote steady growth.)

About the Author

Power Stars to Light the Business Flame, by Hank Moore, encompasses a full-scope business perspective, invaluable for the corporate and small business markets. It is a compendium book, containing quotes and extrapolations into business culture, arranged in 76 business categories.

Hank’s latest book functions as a ‘PDR of business,’ a view of Big Picture strategies, methodologies and recommendations. This is a creative way of re-treading old knowledge to enable executives to master change rather than feel as they’re victims of it.

Power Stars to Light the Business Flameis now out in all three e-book formats: iTunes, Kindle, and Nook.