They say change is inevitable in life and business, but that doesn’t mean it’s always welcome. While undoubtedly, entrepreneurs have to be more comfortable with change than other business types, change can still strike with surprise, creating overwhelm and frustration. However, change doesn’t have to be hard if you take some lessons from fellow entrepreneurs who have navigated their way through both voluntary change, and the kind that happens unexpectedly.
“I would not recommend getting into entrepreneurship if you were adverse to change, because it’s the nature of the beast,” says Brandon Crossley, CEO of Poindexter, a cash-flow management solution that turns entrepreneurs into financial planning experts.
That said, he’s sympathetic to unexpected change, particularly when it impacts an entire company. His first suggestion is to take a step back and consider “what are the implications for the business, not just in terms of the grand vision, but also operationally, on a day-to-day basis.”
Even before that, he says the best piece of advice he has “is just not to freak out.” Change is happening whether you take it on willingly or it comes at you. “The key is to look at it more in a positive light as an opportunity to grow and improve.” By framing it in a positive light, he says, you can avoid getting overwhelmed.
He acknowledges that this may not come naturally to everyone and may take some time. “It’s something you have to work toward and really build a habit of doing.”
While it’s easy to get overwhelmed by a lot of details when change is in the works, Crossley advises the more you can stay focused at “the high level” without “digging into the weeds of how each of those parts is specifically going to change” the more likely you are to stay in a strong headspace that will allow you to eventually get to how to handle the small stuff. “The best way to eat an elephant is to take it one bite at a time, and that’s certainly the case with any change.”
For Kristin Marquet, Founder and Creative Director of three related businesses that fall under the blanket of her Creative Development Agency, a New-York based PR and digital marketing firm, when change comes out of the blue she says “we try to mitigate risk as much as possible and plan every step we’re doing because I need to see what’s happening in front of me.”
This plan is a literal artifact; she eschews digital and writes it down by hand. This simple plan “helps keep me focused and agile in today’s tech-driven society,” Marquet says.
It’s also crucial to keep communication open when change comes unexpectedly. Depending on the size of your company, Crossley recommends you might even designate a team whose job it is to communicate details of change, since a larger company might not have the luxury of weekly meetings in the same location. At the very least, simple tools already in use, such as Slack, will be helpful at times like this. It’s mostly important for founders and managers to stay calm so as not to invoke anxiety in employees and coworkers.
Not all change comes flying out of the blue; inevitably every business will have to choose change at some level.
If you’re going to willingly tackle change, Crossley recommends that entrepreneurs “test as vigorously as possible the validity of whether the changes need to take place.”
In a bid to court enterprise type customers, his company Poindexter is contemplating changing their business “substantially” in ways that could affect their sales cycle and their product road map. “But we’re not jumping the gun as far as actually executing based on the feedback that we’ve already received until we have more substantial, concrete evidence that this is warranted,” he says.
Marquet believes that entrepreneurs should actively pursue change once a year when it comes to your marketing and branding. “If you want to stay up to date and have a nice presence online and offline, all your marketing materials have to be updated and modernized.”
Every December she and her team begin this process of tweaking their messaging to make sure it resonates with their business plan and vision. “If you want to stay ahead of the curve you have to evolve with the times,” she advises.