Whether you have been promoted at work, want to stand out amongst colleagues, bought a new business or are facing some urgent need to change your firm, there will be a right and a wrong speed to make changes.
Everybody wants to stamp their mark and show they’re very capable as a manager or business owner.
A client business of mine had been sold and the new owners taking over the company seemed capable and had some relevant experience. A few months in and word on the street is that the business is not what it used to be and that existing customers are talking.
Aside from resisting change, when customers are talking in a non-positive way, you know the changes you have made are not great.
The new owners had not secured key staff to deal with existing customers, so customers no longer had a personal connection with the business. Some of the standards that customers had come to expect were undone within a few weeks of the new ownership as the new owners wanted to do things differently. The biggest lesson here is that when taking over a business or an area of responsibility, make sure it is seamless in the eyes of your customers.
How long should you wait before making change?
There are many books about how to make the most of your first 90 days in a new position as a manager or business owner. They probably all say different things. In my experience I think it takes 90 to 180 days to really know what you are doing in your new role. If you are new to the industry, it takes a while to understand various industry specifics.
To stand out, the easiest way will be to identify low-hanging fruit, meaning those things that either frustrate your team or frustrate customers and are relatively simple to fix or make progress on. You will look like a hero, as these are the things that should have been fixed or improved already.
To really understand the culture of the business or team, it will take a good few months to get to know how things work and to connect personally with everybody. Unless you have some real bad eggs, culturally, you will need to wait a while before making any major changes.
Your team will be unsettled due to the change in leadership, and unless previous management was terrible, they will be watching how you run the team before fully committing to you and your approach.
Get your team on side and consider how you react, day to day when urgent things come up that require a decision. Once your team is on side, you will be able to improve and change whatever you like. If your team is not onside – ouch – you will be facing an uphill battle with the changes you would like to bring in.
It is true that by not making change, a business can go backwards.
It is also true the pace of change can strangle a business, obviously if you change too slowly, but the same is true if you move too fast. If you move fast, you will be taking too many risks and it might come back to bite you. The golden rule when making change is to consider what your customers will think and what your team will think. Is one more important than the other: customers or your team? That is a chicken or egg, horse or cart type argument, but without your customers, you have no business. You only have customers if your team delivers what customers expect.
Certainly, sometimes your hands are tied when making change due to financial reasons. In this case, the most important thing is to move with pace so that your business has the best chance of being around 5 (or more) years from today.
When you are faced with this, the most important thing is to act proactively. If you are reactive, you will be facing an uphill battle to be around 5 years from today. Assuming you are not planning a business exit anytime soon, the ultimate rule around the pace of change you make should be based on what will give you the best medium to long-term benefit for your business or team. Are the changes you make truly helping you to be a stronger business in the long run?
Zac de Silva is an award winning business coach who owns www.businesschanging.com as well as being the co-founder of the Nurture Change Business Retreat in Fiji. If you like the questions that Zac poses, check out www.accme.co which will get you thinking on how to run a better business.
(This article was first published in the Sunday Star Times and on Stuff.co.nz on Feb 26, 2017.)