Reinventing yourself and your small business

Musicians aren't the only people who have to reinvent themselves periodically. Many small business owners also have to add new skills and services, either out of necessity or desire.

Rock stars aren’t the only people who reinvent themselves periodically. Many small business owners also add new skills and services or venture into new markets.

By Mark G. Auerbach

Next year, my public relations and marketing consultancy turns 30 years old. The Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations of yesteryear is nothing like the Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations of today. Aside from technology, the Internet, and the evolution of 24/7 media, our focus has evolved. When I started the business, I’d come from the world of performing arts administration and cultural tourism and assumed I’d be providing services to both of those markets. I did, but I rapidly got involved in public radio, and my client base shifted to include more travel companies, media, and retail. Then, I became a part-time reporter covering the arts, so I had to drop the local arts clients. Then, for some odd reason, I got involved with private schools. Now, I’m doing a mix of media, authors, and events.

My role has changed. I used to coordinate a lot of print and direct mail; now I’m coordinating more social media. I used to buy newspaper ad space, but that’s morphed into print, radio, TV and web. I used to do a lot of special events and graphic design. Today, I farm those out.

Moving with the times

I learned early on that the ability to change with the times; the knack of reinventing one’s self, and the dexterity to balance the traditional ways of doing business with the new innovations has made me a better competitor for clients in today’s marketplace. The words “But I’ve always done things this way” don’t exist in my mindset. They shouldn’t in yours, because that kind of rigidity prevents one from adapting to new ideas.

We’ve all seen individuals and businesses that have reinvented themselves with the times. Madonna and Lady Gaga have mastered the art of change in the entertainment industry. Gaga showed that she could capture attention in a brisket dress, yet sing standards with Tony Bennett, and do a Sound of Music medley. Starbucks, which began with coffees, expanded to teas, sweet blended drinks, and with clever marketing, morphed into a social activity, cafe culture magnet, and a community center as well as a drink spot.

Can you reinvent yourself to keep yourself and your business fresh? Answer these questions to see how you’ll do.

-Review your skill sets, and review the market you serve. Can you adapt your business offerings within your current market? Will you be able to grow your business if you do? Case in point: an attorney who specializes in real estate sees his older clients downsizing and selling their homes. Can he or she expand to help the elderly clients with issues relating to assisted living? Can he or she expand services to assist younger first-time homebuyers?

-How will you balance the old and the new? Your customer base already seeks you out because your provide something of value to them. When you transition to new or additional services slowly, the current base isn’t startled, and the new customers, who have no idea about your previous offerings, don’t overwhelm the veterans. If you’re a bakery, and you introduce some vegan options, that’s great. If you become a completely vegan bakery overnight, your croissant lovers will go elsewhere.

-Gradual change allows you the opportunity to assess and reassess. Say you can handle five clients, and all of them are political. You want to get away from politics, so you add a restaurant to the mix. You love the change. How will you add yet more variety? And when will you know if the new clients are stable enough, so you can say farewell to the old?

It’s campaign season and we’re inundated with every candidate’s message of “it’s time for a change.” Change is good when you do it thoughtfully.

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Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn.

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