Week 11: Is your business fit for purpose?

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Most of us would associate the phrase ‘fit for purpose’ with a product or service that we have seen or used, but that we do not think actually does what it is meant to do.

But what many of us do not realise is that as well as all the other tests and challenges faced by an early stage business, as well as making sure that whatever it is that you are selling is fit for purpose, it is perhaps even more important to make sure that the actual underlying business is fit for purpose.

This means that your business is in the right market at the right time, with the right pricing structure, and with all the right people around you and systems in place to make sure that not only can your business deliver what it is meant to today but it will also be able to do so in the future. And it is the future part of that that even very large companies can get wrong. Obvious examples of this are Kodak inventing digital cameras and then deciding not to go with them, or Blockbuster Video not moving with the times and catching the trend away from hiring videos. For both, these were fatal mistakes.

My week started by meeting many of the leading players in using the new technology of blockchain to increase security, increase transparency, and reduce costs. Whilst many readers might not know the details of blockchain it is already all around us and will grow exponentially in coming years. Most of these were early stage businesses that had seen the future, and by fully understanding it and leading the charge had grown very quickly, and indeed overtaking many of the more established businesses that they compete with. These more established businesses were often much slower to see that in the future their business model would not be fit for purpose and recognising the need for change.

Away from blockchain, one of my meetings was also an early stage business that was already growing well but thankfully they fully understood the need to constantly evolve the business and develop new ideas and products and services. Whilst their business was more than fit for purpose at present they were determined to ensure that it stayed that way by staying ahead of any change and both broadening and deepening the business. The discussions centred on what exact steps were to be taken to achieve that and agreeing a timeline. All of which ensures action rather than just words.

With change, comes opportunity. Inevitably new entrants with fresh ideas are more dynamic and enthusiastic than those that they set up to challenge. Another of my meetings was with a startup that had exercised considerable time in both researching the market and by developing a very good, fresh new twist. One of their core strengths was that they had seen how the existing players in the market had not moved with the times and the services offered were no longer fulfilling the needs of the customers. So whilst many were household names they had allowed their companies to become stale and not fit for purpose. It is not too much of a stretch to see how this new challenger will explode on to the scene in the near future.

So next time you hear the phrase ‘fit for purpose’ don’t get caught out just thinking about that particular product or service but make sure that you use this as a reminder to take a step back and look at your whole business. Is everything about your business fit for purpose? If not then you should certainly do something about it very quickly as you can be sure that if you do not then someone else will and you might not get a second chance before that Kodak or Blockbuster moment is upon you and it will be too late.