Are you moving at the pace of change?

Inc. Magazine

We’re on the cusp of some radical changes in how and where we’ll be working, driven largely by the introduction of new players and suppliers, new business models, new automation technologies and new connectivity tools. Together, they are changing the face, the composition, the size and the future of our workforce.

How, and how rapidly, these new forces will evolve in your own companies isn’t clear, but it is inevitable. And don’t expect slow and incremental change because that’s no longer the way the world works. The sooner you start thinking about them and planning for them, the more prepared you’re going to be and the more likely you are to be surfing the waves rather than drowning in the floods.

Today, we’re all connected by powerful and fully portable devices that are increasingly intelligent and sentient. We’re prepared and we’re expected to work anywhere and everywhere — on call, like it or not, 24/7/365 — and because these are the requirements of our present work world, we readily extrapolate and extend them well beyond our own day-to-day lives into the broader workplace as well.

We’re all in a hurry these days, and time is the scarcest resource of all.

In fact, once we’ve experienced these hyper-speed services either as providers or recipients, once we’re an active part and a participant in the “right now” economy, we soon mentally up our own expectations and anticipate exactly the same levels of speed and service throughout the rest of our lives. Why would anyone wait for anything?

If Walgreens can give me a walk-in, one-minute flu shot, why would I wait three weeks to make an appointment with my regular doctor’s nurse to get the exact same shot and pay a lot more for the privilege. And, oh by the way, while I’m at Walgreens, I can drop off my FedEx packages as well.

No business or industry is going to escape these kinds of shifts, and the smart money is on the people thinking today about what they will need to do differently tomorrow to thrive in the new mobile and digital economy. The question you need to be asking yourselves is not simply how do I use some of these new-fangled technologies to do my business better, but how will I use these new tools to do things for my clients and customers that I never imagined I could do before.

For example, a Chicago startup called LISA has an app that provides easy tenant access to all kinds of onsite personal services, such as hair and nail care. It’s like an automated concierge service for office buildings, and it’s just one good example of what’s coming down the line.

These ever-faster changes will have significant and disruptive impacts on the workplace and on the demands that tenants will be making on their landlords.

It’s not going to be enough to say that you are fairly responsive and pretty quick — you need to have a plan that is focused not on how fast you are today, but on how fast your business is getting faster and becoming more adept and, most importantly, how capable you are of anticipating and exceeding the needs and requirements of your customers. You need to learn to skate to where the puck is headed, not chase it down the ice.

The expectations of all customers are perpetually progressive, and the movement is always up and to the right. What was great yesterday, even things that were miracles of speed and service, are just “so what” today. It’s increasingly a “what have you done for me lately?” world and if you’re not meeting the demands, you can be sure that there are plenty of others ready to fill your shoes.

The idea of parity, that “we’re no worse than the next guy,” is being blown up by new entrants with new business models that aren’t held to the same old standards and aren’t doing business in the same old way. Traditions these days are really just excuses offered by people who don’t want to change.

Now I understand that almost no one likes change, but it’s really not change that’s the problem. Changes when they come take place in an instant. It’s overcoming the resistance to change, the reluctance to leave behind the old ways and abandon the things that have worked “pretty well” for you in the past, that keeps us from moving forward.

The hard news is that what worked for us in the past simply won’t cut it in the future. Things aren’t going to be just a little bit different because the shifts in the ways we do business will make a lot of the old methods and programs essentially meaningless. And, if you don’t do it to yourselves, someone else will promptly come right along to do it to you. So now’s the time to get started.

Customers and clients are increasingly fickle folks, and their definition of loyalty is also new. Today, loyalty doesn’t mean much more than I haven’t seen anything better yet. I realize that that’s not encouraging, but that’s life in the fast lane.

No one really owns the customers or clients any more. You can own the moment and the experience, but you have to deliver the goods each and every time.

Howard Tullman is the CEO of 1871, where 500 digital startups are building their businesses.

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