Staying ahead of the curve by being connected to the industry leaders and history found in your business

Staying ahead of the curve in business, is often not only how a business survives but how it continues to grow and thrive. Jason Loeb (founder of Sudsies Dry-Cleaners) meets with industry leaders across state lines to discuss their roots and new developments within their shared industry of dry-cleaning. A friendly round table of sorts, the topics range from past innovations and future changes to legacy and shared culture in their businesses. The knowledge shared spans 160+ years and the conversations are usually dynamic and ever evolving.

Knowing your Roots

It is always important to understand the origin of your business and your journey. It helps you to not only have gratitude for the journey (ups and downs included) but it also assists in understanding where and how your industry has grown. Your place in an industry and your approach to business (the core tenant known as your philosophy) is also an interesting topic of conversation to be had among industry leaders in a friendly meet up. Not everyone approaches business in quite the same way and philosophies can differ in some ways but also be largely similar in other ways; seeing where philosophies intertwine or divert from each other can be a highly educational experience. One that helps in your goal of “staying ahead” of the times. Approaching the discussion with an open mind, only allows for one to see patterns more clearly and glean all the potential lessons to be learned. Whether it’s in the developmental trajectory found in the history of an industry, the values in one’s culture, or the innovations and new technologies that have shaped and changed the operations and logistics of a business. If you know the past, you not only can predict the future, but you can also change it for the better.

Understanding the nature of Small Business

As Jason Loeb states, “The take-away for whoever we choose to share this journey with, is ‘how are they helping other people’? I think that what we share in our industry is how many peoples’ lives we touch. Even as customers. How many people do we see on a weekly basis? Week after week and month after month, over the years?” This understanding that small business is “the people business” not only helps to make an impact in a community, to drive through a legacy through decades, but it also assists in keeping one’s eyes set on what is important: the lives impacted through the products and services provided. As Jason often states, “We are helping people with life events.” At Sudsies one of the big elements found in the training is “a day in the life of a customer,” to (as Jason emphasizes) “really hit home the point, in educating the team, that you never know what the person you are helping today, is going through. So, we try to build those relationships.”

Thinking about the Future

One of the questions that Jason leads the charge in asking, while in a group discussion between friends and leaders in the industry, is “As we think about the future, how do we continue to make a difference in what we do?” Counsel is sought and questions are asked among all the leaders sitting at the table so a discussion can be had. Ultimately the conclusion is answering the questions of “What comes next?” or “What are some of the next steps?” It could be doing something in the forefront of the industry, that no one else has yet thought of (whether this is eco-friendliness, technological implementation, cash less payments, or changes in operations, logistics, and customer care). What were the advancements found in the past? If you track the trajectory of your business and the industry that you are in, you may be able to see the patterns of innovation (across technology, products, services, logistics, and customer care) that are to be found in the past which can inform the future. History repeats but so do customer and business needs. What needs was each new business development serving and what needs can you anticipate so that you may serve those needs in the future? This isn’t only limited to a customer or client perspective. As Jason explains, “There’s a lot of human capital that we all impact. What’s the future for us? We’re talking about trying to make it better for our teams, our organizations, and for each other. What are we looking for in the future so that we can continue to make an impact?” Raising important questions is the first step to getting great answers.

5 Take-Aways for staying ahead of the curve:

  1. Look at and analyze the story that’s being told within the data trends of the past. What have been the innovations of the past and what have been some common patterns in business needs and customer needs (over large frames of time gone by) that were often on repeat with regards to their development in operations. How can knowledge gained from looking back, help to inform your future progress? An exploration of the past may help to illuminate what clients and customers have always needed and will always need, what they wanted at different points in time, and how businesses in your industry have adapted and grown with the implementation of innovations addressing those human needs. Which businesses ceased to exist, which survived, which thrived and why? Then, with that newly gained story in mind, keep an eye on what story the future is telling.
  2. Stay informed on new technological developments and changing consumer demands. As technology advances the way that we do things, so do our consumer demands change accordingly. With new technologies, we have seen consumers get used to automation and speed (one- or two-day delivery for example, one click ordering, cash less payment, even credit card less payment, and “direct to door” food delivery through apps). Through technological breakthroughs, people are getting used to an expecting expedient service, convenience, and a digital interface for an ever more digital world. How can you ride a similar technological wave, found in adjacent industry, that may also work to meet those same consumer demands in an effective and impactful way?
  3. Brainstorm with industry leaders while sharing what works and doesn’t work. When minds are put together, there are not only less mistakes, but a myriad more ways as to how a problem is raised and how the angles provided for a solution are put into play. Brainstorming and discussing with industry leaders helps to ensure that new ideas are not only raised (that one may never have arrived at alone) but also developed through a shared culling process. Each person’s strengths, weaknesses, and perspectives are enjoined into a common endeavor for a bigger shared impact.
  4. Actively listen and share. What lessons can be gleaned from another’s successes and failures, as well as your own? If one child sees another child get burned from touching a hot stove, then chances are that same mistake will be avoided without the cost (when it comes to the second child and all others within eyesight or earshot of the event). By learning from each other’s success and failures (without needing to go through them ourselves) we accelerate our progress. We also help to ensure that everyone remains okay in a shared journey to growing and thriving.
  5. Changes are happening all the time, and technology is moving fast, so although the future is not yet here, it should be on your mind. Solving for the problems of today is not enough. In business, you must anticipate and be proactive, (rather than just reactive). Game-plan and outline what future developments, obstacles, opportunities, and industry changes may look like. By being ahead of the eight-ball, you ensure that you can outpace change or at the least, be prepared and ready to meet it head on.
Share this post
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x