|Lady GaGa concert (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
I started my company more than 11 years ago and like any business that has survived for more than a decade, you have to keep reinventing yourself and add new tools to the toolkit if you want to stay relevant and thrive. Being a young business is actually a big advantage. It is not uncommon for more veteran businesses to be overtaken by their younger, newer counterparts. Established firms are never safe just because of their longevity, they cannot risk resting on their laurels doing the same things and expecting results to follow.
It is not about age per se. Getting older can also mean getting better if you keep a fresh outlook and stay young at heart. The wisdom that comes with age is priceless but don't get too stuck in your ways. Look at Madonna who rose to fame in the 80s topping the charts in the 90s and can still fill large arenas and entertain Super Bowl crowds in the 2000s! How does she do it and what can we in business learn from her success?
As Bob Dylan says "The Times They Are a-Changin" so you have to stay fresh and fashion forward. In the 80s Madonna was a bleach blond, pudgy, leather jacket wearing rocker. In the 90s she started to settle down a bit, marry & remarry and softened her look. In the 2000s she discovered yoga, the kabbalah, had children, found her spiritual side and signed one of the largest music deals in history. If you are still wearing the same suits, have the same haircut and style of makeup as you did when you started your career decades ago it is time to update your look!
Embrace and mentor the next generation. Madonna could have been threatened when Britney Spears and Lady Gaga came onto the scene but she was confident and showed her strength by appearing on stage with them at awards shows and on Saturday Night Live which only increased her admiration and respect from her fans. She was introduced to a younger audience and also found new fans who can now appreciate her role in music history. In business I think the most successful senior managers are mentors and also find younger staff to reverse mentor them so they can become conversant on new trends, music and technology.
Continuing education plays a big role in keeping your skills current. Fans consume entertainment very differently now than they did when Madonna started topping the charts. MTV videos and the radio were the only games in town then. Now musicians compete online, with iPads, iPods, satellite radio, social media, DVD audio, etc. so you have to stay up on all the current formats and distribution vehicles. In business you should regularly attend trade shows, conferences, read trade journals, white papers, blogs, watch TED talks, etc. to keep up with the latest trends, tools and technologies in your category.
Don't be complacent. I try to add at least one new lead generation idea each year to the mix. Some years you may add a new product or service. Or you may decide to elevate your presence online through social media or begin doing more public speaking, writing or blogging for example. You have to continually test and learn because the competitive environment around you is constantly changing. Something you may have tried a year ago that fell flat may actually spark interest now that a new competitor is on the scene.
|Lady Gaga and Lady Starlight performing at Lollapalooza, 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Measure success and ask for feedback. Madonna tracks sales of her new albums carefully and can tell if her advertising, concerts, interviews, and social media activity are connecting with her fans. With your business measure what matters most and know which metrics drive profitable sales. Go on a listening tour and talk to your current, prospective and lost customers, it is amazing what you can learn when you ask a few targeted and open ended questions and then just let people talk.
Staying in place is just not an option in business. You have to grow to survive and it is certainly more fun to operate in a world where personal and professional growth occurs. If Madonna can be a pop culture icon for 4 decades I am inspired that the next 10 years of my company can be even more fun and exciting than the last. What are you waiting for?