Last weekend, I had the pleasure of taking some friends down with me to a small coastal village called Brooms Head. Brooms Head is three hours south of Brisbane and is one of those places that never seem to change. That is one of the reasons I love it. The beach is the same time after time. The houses are the same. There are no developments to speak of. In a sense, it is a throw-back to a simpler, happy time for many visitors.
However, it makes me think – should it change? I sat in the Brooms Head Bowling Club drinking a Tooheys Old (great beer on tap) and having a bet on Saturday when a local came up to speak with me. I have known Blair for a few years and he is a pretty sharp bloke and a forward thinker. I asked Blair how business was going for the club and he told me that it was “slow – things have to change”. He went on to explain to me that there was a great asset over the road (the Pacific Ocean) and the club would not build up a level to exploit the view. They refused to build a play area to make it more family friendly for tourists and they were missing massive opportunities by being close minded. They were risking their own survival by not being open to change. He made a persuasive and rational argument; one that I could certainly not refute.
There is massive pressure on businesses to change. The headline article of the Harvard Business Review last month was titled “Change Faster” and highlights the benefit of businesses being able to adapt and change quickly. The story of Kodak, once the leader in film and technology, filing for bankruptcy recently is well known. They were experts in film and chose not to adapt to the digital era. When cameras changed, they didn’t. As such, they had no market left to work within. Even tech savvy businesses like Yahoo and Myspace (after they were purchased by News Corporation) have been left behind as they failed to understand the requirement to change. The management team at Facebook have recently faced a barrage of questions asking “what’s next” for Facebook. What new markets will they be targeting to feed the growth required to keep investors happy?
The growth of social media has led to a number of businesses changing the way they connect with their customer base. Customer engagement is a buzz phrase at the moment and providing greater value for a lower cost is a priority. Social media allows us to get access to so many more existing and potential customers for very little money and it has changed the way we all conduct business. It allows people to voice their opinions and force change (just ask Alan Jones and 2GB) and makes businesses accountable. It can be difficult to manage and to measure but you ignore it at your peril. The need to develop a clear and concise social media strategy is one thing that took me some time to understand but is a necessary change to make to stay relevant.
This brings me back to the Brooms Head Bowling Club. While I love a quiet Saturday afternoon punt and beer, I need to recognise that I am in the minority. I love it because it is a quiet club but quiet clubs regularly go broke because they don’t attract and retain enough customers. The club hasn’t really changed for the past 25 years and needs to engage with its existing and potential customers. People expect a better customer experience and those expectations have been sharpened over the years with the advent of increased choice and exposure through social media. Change is inevitable, and those of us who are not receptive to change may end up like Kodak or my beloved Brooms Head Bowling Club. I just hope they keep serving Tooheys Old on tap.
Brad McMahon – Managing Director