Darwin said: “In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.”

The same applies in business. I learned to adapt the hard way.

While still in college, I launched a pager business. In time, it grew into a multi-million-dollar company. I knew in my gut that although pagers were all the hype, a new technology would inevitably take its place.

I didn’t listen to my gut.

Instead I obstinately defended the pager business and its relevance because I linked my success directly to it.

Because of my inability to embrace new technology head on, I lost a lot of money and my business nearly perished.

Eventually and fortunately, I did make the change to mobile phones. But because I adapted slowly, I was forced to start my mobile business nearly from scratch. It was then that I promised myself I would never again ignore threats, or my instinct, in business.

Threats exist in every industry and in every business. For every checkbook there’s a debit card for every telegraph there’s an email and for every pager there’s a cell phone. Business leaders need to recognize, discuss, debate and plan for these threats to mitigate them.

This may be more important now than ever because our technological world enables the quick transfer of information and ideas, which initiates change.  If consumers’ wants and needs are changing quicker than your business structure can address, you’re in trouble.

Learn from my mistakes and incorporate these five routines in your business practices so you don’t become the next dinosaur.

  1. Look to the future – Set your sights 18 months ahead of the market. So many business leaders get caught up in the day-to-day. This myopic approach stunts their evolution.
  2. Read and network – By educating yourself and conversing with your consumers and colleagues, you’ll gain intel that you’ll miss if you remain isolated in your office only reading yesterday’s business reports.
  3. Lead proudly –Steve Jobs said: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” If in the pager businesses I would have been seeking out opportunities to innovate rather than dodging them, I could have lead the industry to mobile. As a businesses owner or manager you should always look for occasions to lead. Don’t hide behind your last accomplishment.
  4. Perform a SWOT Analysis – SWOT is an analyzation process that urges business leaders to identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to gain better understanding of their enterprise or project. By considering your businesses strengths, weaknesses and opportunities, you will inadvertently realize threats. Overall, the process forces you to think deeper about your business, which allows you to be proactive rather reactive to threats.
  5. Go with your gut – Instinct is a power tool we’re all hardwired with. Use it. It will rarely fail you.

Like many of life’s difficult lessons, I’m better for having experienced my defining business lesson early on. It has undoubtedly shaped my personal evolution as well. 


*Originally published in The Tennessean.

Photo credit:  <a href=””>Kyle Watson Photography</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>cc</a>