Whatever it is, it is already getting old. Within five years, 80 percent of all products and services offered today will be either obsolete or significantly modified from their current form. If a product works, it is already obsolete. Your competitors are bringing new products and services, and improvements on existing products and services, to the market faster than you can keep track. You can’t afford to become complacent. You must be aggressively seeking out and developing the products and services that your customers will be demanding in the years ahead. If you don’t, your competitors will.
Your entire success will be determined by your ability to capitalize on the opportunities of today and tomorrow. What are they? Sometimes small innovations can lead to great victories, and even the downfall of empires. The invention of the longbow totally transformed war- fare in the Middle Ages, allowing the peasants to defend themselves against the nobles. This led to an edict by Pope Innocent III in 1139 A.D. to ban the longbow as a danger to humanity. The stirrup, which gave an armed soldier or knight a firmer seat when fighting from horseback, was a critical invention that gave the forces of William of Normandy an advantage against the troops of the English king Harold II at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and helped lead to the conquest of England.
In the modern age, laser guided bombs enable an attacking force to strike the enemy with such pinpoint accuracy that only small quantities of ordinance are required. This has changed the face of modern warfare and contributed to stunning victories in both Iraq in 1991, and Afghanistan in 2001–2002.
1. What new products and services could you develop and bring to the market? What improvements could you make to your existing products and services to make them better, faster, cheaper, and more desirable to your customers of today and your customers of tomorrow? Should you be getting into completely new product and service areas in order to better serve your customers? These are key questions that you must ask and answer continually.
2. What are the systems, processes, procedures, and activities within your company that could be improved, outsourced, downsized, or eliminated? Change is going to take place whether you like it or not. The only question is whether you will direct it or whether it will happen in a random and haphazard manner.
Continually look around you, seeking means of improving the way that you operate your business from the inside.
3. Strategic alliances: What are the different ways you could form alliances with people in businesses that are similar to your own and serve similar customers? A referral is worth fifteen cold calls on a new customer. How could you piggyback on the established credibility of other organizations to sell more of your product or service to the same type of customers?
4. Distribution channels: What additional opportunities exist for you to distribute more of your products or services through your existing distribution channels or through other distribution channels? Could you create new products and services that you could sell through new distribution channels that don’t even exist for you today? What are all the different ways in which you could get more of your products and services to more of your customers in a profitable manner?