With the year winding down and our spirits being lifted by the joys of the festive season, there is no better time to reflect on the progress of 2016. As each year passes, it feels as though innovation moves us light years ahead, advancing us to a new era of modern business and ever-changing consumer behavior: this is the age of disruption.
It is fair to say that companies often struggle to accommodate such a rapid, relentless pace of changing preferences, technology and supporting processes. Only those who are able to balance the needs of today with the foresight of tomorrow are able to succeed. With this, we thought it would be beneficial to sit down with, arguably, the most successful businessperson of all time, to gain some insight into what it takes to build a truly adaptable and resilient business model—one which withstands the test of time and constantly evolving demands.
Q: “Thank you so much for your willingness to share some wisdom during such a busy time of year. Do you prefer Santa Claus or Kris Kringle?”
Santa: “Santa is fine; it is a pleasure to join you. Any excuse to get away from the workshop, ho ho ho!”
Q: “I can only imagine how busy you must be. Your company has been around for centuries and, yet, you continue to have a commanding share of the gift-giving market. What has been your secret to remaining the top gift manufacturer and distributor through all these years?”
Santa: “It’s all about staying relevant. The world has changed, dramatically, from when I began delivering presents. Gone are the years when we would manufacture a select number of presents from which children could choose their favorites. I have witnessed an incredible shift of power from my company (including our outsourced elf service partners) to the end gift receiver, the children. The children dictate our priorities and we innovate based upon their desires. ‘If you build it they will come’ is no longer the case—they (the children) tell you what to build and you build it. No bargaining. It is a shift that cannot be ignored.”
Q: “Interesting. Did you find it difficult to adapt to this change of power?”
Santa: “Yes, adaptation takes effort but the alternative is far worse. Refusing to move beyond ‘the way it’s always been’ renders our company (and all companies) obsolete. I like to use a metaphor to describe resistance to change: those trees which refuse to bend to strong winds are the first to break. Similarly, if a company does not invest the time to adapt their business models to attribute ever-changing preferences, it will fall.”
Q: “What about those who believe that focusing on change and trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ is a recipe for disaster?”
Santa: “A great question, indeed. Sporadic change without strategic alignment is a recipe for disaster. Adaptation is not about changing your company or bowing to the masses. Companies who change in order to appeal to everyone will never survive. In fact, in business, you will undoubtedly have people who dislike your product/service—that’s when you know you’re on the right track because it means you’re relevant enough that, at the very least, people have had to make a choice to dislike you…I certainly have my share of naysayers, ho ho ho!
No, it’s not about changing what your company stands for—it’s about adapting your company to the changing likes, wants, preferences and trends, while maintaining your DNA. For example: we, cheerfully, make and deliver presents to all of the children of the world within a single sleep, every year. That is our value proposition and it has not changed for centuries (despite certain companies attempting to claim the same value proposition as their own, ahem, I see you Amazon!)”
Q: “Can you give examples of how you have managed to adapt your business model while maintaining the company DNA?”
Certainly. Although our value proposition always holds true, our business model has seen drastic changes over the years: the gifts being made have changed, the delivery channels have changed, the children’s profiles (our target audience) have changed, the composition and duties of my elf manufacturing team have changed, our cost model has changed, our wish-list enrollment has changed, our strategic partnerships have changed (i.e. in fact, we are rolling out a whole new ‘Uber-sleigh’ network delivery system over the coming Christmas seasons—we’re very excited), etc. The point is that value is perceived in the eyes of the buyer/receiver; you must be vigilant and periodically setting aside time (away from the day-to-day) to innovate, to plan, and to calibrate your business model in order to consistently deliver your intended value in the way it is sought.
Q: Great advice. Thank you, again, for taking the time to share some wisdom. Is there anything else you would like the readership and business owners to keep in mind as we close in on the New Year?
Santa: “You are most welcome, it is always a pleasure. As for your readers, the best piece of advice and, perhaps, the oldest and most effective business practice, is to be nice beyond December. Regardless of value proposition, innovative thinking, maximizing operational efficiencies, etc., you may be surprised to learn how frequently business success follows those who are consistently on my nice list. Merry Christmas to all!”