A new hire is a precious asset because they have a fresh perspective on your business. Don’t squander this incredible opportunity. Encourage them to ask questions and then listen to how your organization reacts and answers those questions. It is easy to discount questions which sound naïve because the employee “doesn’t understand how your business works yet.” New hires are my favorite source of learning because they do things that are completely natural to them that can provide valuable learning (if you’re paying attention and not attached to YOUR WAY).

In December we took five people on-site with a customer to kick off a development project, this included a relatively new member of our team. At breakfast on the last day, everyone handed over the hotel bills that were slid under their doors that morning. When I looked at our new team member he said, “I don’t pay attention to paper, doesn’t the hotel e-mail you a receipt?” New team member, fresh perspective, now there is a new more efficient process for executing on the tedious task of expense reports. Why was I collecting the paper receipts that the hotel provided? The only answer I could give was “this is how I’ve always done it.” Why was my team handing over the paper receipts? I’m sure their answer would be because that’s what has been asked of us in the past. When that’s the only answers you can give, it’s time to look at that process to see if your process has kept up to date with what’s changed around it.

We have always done it this way.”

Some say these are the most expensive seven words spoken in your business, others say these are the most telling words when assessing your organization’s willingness to change. Change is viewed as risky because we want to believe that past success guarantees our future success. Your customers are changing, technology is changing, and your competitors are changing, why would you think that maintaining the status quo is anything but the riskiest thing you can do? Standing still is the only way to assure your business’ decline.

If we don’t change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed.”
— Chinese Proverb

Technology is the disrupter here and it is disrupting at a pace that makes most people uncomfortable. Technology is enabling new businesses, new markets, and giving companies the ability to create efficiencies and scale that were never before possible. Everyone is a beginner because the market continues to provide new opportunities while it simultaneously closes down previously lucrative revenue streams.

There are three kinds of companies, those that make things happen, those that watch things happen, and those that wonder what happened.” — Anonymous

With this dynamic market, the experts you’ve relied on are struggling just like you to understand the market. One of the things we have to look at is; am I relying on the same advice as I always have been? Has this advisor adapted to the new realities of the market? At the height of print’s dominance as THE communication channel, your business strategy was relatively simple. Keep investing in new equipment, keep labor costs down, and deliver quality products with good customer service and your business thrived. Today’s market requires a lot more to remain competitive.

We can use the word “challenging” to describe the times; I prefer to use the word “challenge” as your new mantra for thriving in these times.

When an employee says, “This is how we’ve always done it” challenge them to evaluate the process/task rationally based on current business realities. The task I’m especially triggered by is estimating, we have been operating the print business for decades with the belief that the whole business process has to start with a full-service estimate – this simply is not true in our current business environment.

When an employee at your print software vendor says, “This is how it has to work.” challenge them by finding other printers who are using their system, or asking the question in a different way, or asking a different resource within the company. So many technology projects are derailed because the printer takes every word from every employee at the print software vendor as gospel. Think it through, technology is complicated, there are usually many different ways to solve the same problem. Don’t assume the one individual you asked has full context or knows everything about the product, no matter how confident they appear!

When sales or customer service says, “This is how the client wants it” challenge them to understand what the desired result the client is looking for. Customers often suggest a solution instead of telling you the problem and letting you come up with the solution. Lots of money is wasted implementing the solution the customer suggested because sales and customer service thinks the customer is always right. You will win more loyalty solving problems the most effective way, than you will just doing what the customer asks. The best reaction to a customer request is a clarifying question, typically something like “what result are you looking for?” If you don’t believe me, read the book “The Challenger Sale”, the relationship sale person (I’ll do anything the customer says) loses every time to the challenger sales person who brings new ideas and solutions to the customer even though it can create some tension.

Challenge the status quo because we are operating in a dynamic market. Challenge the status quo because the most risky thing you can do with your business today is “keep doing what you’ve been doing because that’s the way you’ve been doing it.”