Written by Dave Cantin for Forbes.com
During stable times, businesses often grow and thrive, competition can increase, and the value and quality of products and services can reach all-time highs. But when the business environment is hit with internal or external negative factors, that uncertainty can cripple—if it doesn’t completely put out of business—any company that does not have strong leadership in place.
Economic conditions, political instability, fluctuations in market demand and changes in consumer behavior can significantly impact a business’s performance and solvency. Company leaders must have resilience and foresight in order to survive and succeed. You may be successful today, but tomorrow holds no guarantees. That is why it is important for any CEO to continually evolve and adapt.
It happened to me. When Covid-19 hit, my business—like so many others—was shuttered. Our main channel of providing financial services and advising our clients within the automotive sector vanished. What didn’t vanish, however, was their continued need for council—arguably during a time when many clients and the industry needed such information the most. To address this need, I created a podcast to regularly disseminate that information. We adapted by providing content on what dealers needed to know during the pandemic, along with insights that would help them be successful in their business when the “new normal” set in.
Flexibility is crucial in a changing landscape.
It’s crucial for companies to be flexible and agile in their approach to business operations. This means being willing to adjust strategies, pivot to new markets and adopt new technologies quickly. It is this type of pivoting that can keep you in the forefront as one of the leading companies in your industry. I’ve noticed that the companies that are able to pivot and adapt to changing conditions are more likely to thrive.
According to PwC’s “2023 CEO Survey,” 50% or more of those surveyed said changing customer preferences, regulatory change, skills shortages and technology disruptions will be the key factors most likely to impact their industry’s profitability over the next 10 years. Business leaders often face the challenge of establishing authority within their business sector and knowing when to adapt in order to ultimately grow. This can be especially difficult in a crowded market or when competing against larger, more established companies. However, with the right strategies and tactics, CEOs can build credibility and establish themselves as leaders in their industry for the long term.
Go beyond your core expertise to become the leader customers seek out.
I think one of the most important things a business leader can do to establish authority is not only to become an expert in their field but also to have the foresight to look beyond their core area of expertise. This means staying up to date with the latest trends, developments and best practices in their industry, and being able to speak intelligently and confidently about the products or services that are impacting industry trends or driving change within their market.
Another key strategy for establishing authority is to build relationships with other industry leaders and influencers. This can be done by reaching out to other business owners, bloggers and experts in your field, and offering to collaborate on projects or share knowledge and resources. By building these relationships, small-business owners can tap into the networks and reputations of more established industry leaders and gain credibility and visibility for their own business.
Set the standard on customer service.
In the end, success is about building the strongest relationship possible with your customers. It only takes a few negative customer experiences to derail your brand, impact your revenues and stifle your market share growth. Chief executives and business owners can establish authority by providing excellent customer service and maintaining a strong reputation. This means going above and beyond to meet your customer needs today and having the fortitude to solve potential future problems. Three key steps to accomplish great customer service include:
1. Listen actively and attentively to customers to understand their needs and concerns; respond promptly and effectively.
2. Continuously improve products and services based on customer feedback to ensure you are meeting customer expectations and addressing their needs.
3. Communicate regularly and transparently with customers to build trust and establish open lines of communication.
By providing a consistently high level of customer service, I’ve found small-business owners can build a strong reputation and attract more customers to their business.
Finally, invest where you see near- and long-term growth potential, and be prepared to build more aggressive, dynamic ventures. Establishing authority within a business sector can be challenging for young CEOs and small-business owners, but it is not impossible. By becoming an expert in your field, building relationships with other industry leaders, and providing excellent customer service, small-business owners can establish themselves as leaders in their industry and attract more customers and clients.
The bottom line: Adjust your business model to reflect the shifting landscape, consider how you can capitalize on new trends, and deliver higher value for sustainability today and growth for tomorrow.