Sensible Soundbite: Five tips for surviving change

Regardless of your industry, there is one theme that is true of every business and that is: change happens. Irrespective of the size and nature of your business, you will always have to react to outward forces — political interference, volatile exchange rates, labour unrest and changes in technology. Managing Partner at Moore Stephens Johannesburg, Olivier Barbeau, shares five, experience-based tips, on surviving through uncertain times:
1. Culture eats strategy for breakfast
One of the smartest things you can do to be prepared for any change is to ensure you have the right team. For a business to successfully adapt and respond to change, it requires everyone in the team to pull in the same direction. Achieving this requires a culture in which every employee feels respected and empowered to do the right thing for their part of the business. This comes from regular communication where you and your executive team are open and honest with good and bad news.
By placing the utmost value on your people, your company will be prepared for any challenge and emerge as a key player in your industry. Regardless of the obstacles you face as a company, whether anticipated or not, sticking to your core principles with an eye toward long-term goals will ultimately pay off. Companies that encounter unforeseen challenges, new competitors and shifting market conditions will succeed, if they have built a great team and allow that team to adapt with the market.
2. Be prepared to look at things in new ways
The seven most deadly words in business are, “But we’ve always done it that way…” Just because something has worked in the past does not mean it will work in the future. It’s great to have a plan in place based on your past experiences; but understand there is no single blueprint for a company, and be willing to consider alternative approaches.
3. Be nimble and flexible
Two key advantages smaller businesses have over larger competitors are nimbleness and flexibility. Smaller businesses can adapt to change more quickly, as they don't have to deal with in-depth processes and red tape. As a smaller company, you can move rapidly and develop the new business strategy that you may need, to tackle a change head-on.
Leading strategist, Clem Sunter, refers to this dynamic as the Small Business Foxes vs Big Business Hedgehogs.
In recent years, the financial services industry has seen market consolidation with some big players being acquired and others exiting the market. This has created an opening for Moore Stephens to become a market leader through customer service and product innovation, while larger competitors were distracted.
4. Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity
A growing business is a healthy business, right? Not necessarily. Whilst new business may seem exciting, it may not always be profitable. Chasing growth at all costs is a dangerous game. Always look to maintain and improve your overall profitability.
  • Don’t spend too much too early
  • Don’t overstaff your business
  • Keep a handle on your overall finances
5. Accept that not everything is under your control
You can do your best to plan for every scenario, and even some changes can be planned and executed. Inevitably, though, there will be situations you don’t see coming. For those unforeseen issues, the best you can do is take your management team through scenario-planning exercises. Think through ‘likely’ and ‘fairly unlikely’ scenarios that could happen, and how you would react.
There is no set strategy for dealing with major changes in your business world. The best approach is to anticipate that something may be around the corner at all times, whether in the larger economic world or in your specific market, and to do your best to assess and address it as quickly as possible.

Olivier Barbeau is the Managing Partner at Moore Stephens Johannesburg. To contact him, click here.