Time Standing Still

March 26, 2017By Industry Intuition, Views


by Dave Wendland, as seen in HealthCare Distributor magazine, Out of the Box column, January/February 2017

Beginning a new year with a fresh perspective and outlook is important in today’s fast-paced environment. It seems that either pausing too long or dwelling on the past for an extended period of time puts you at risk of falling behind.

Finding time to actually strategically think through your company’s next move can be difficult. Perhaps it is technology or simply the fierceness of competition that has stripped us of the opportunity for time to stand still. Even the latest smartphones will “automate” photographs so that even they will not be still.

I am constantly striving to move our business ahead and help get it to the next rung on the ladder of success, but I do think that once in a while we should all intentionally take the opportunity to simply take a break and ensure that we are not anxiously and eagerly progressing while putting our very business culture and past successes at peril.

I’d like to first illustrate examples of companies and/or circumstances wherein companies reacted too slowly and were not nimble enough to capitalize on trends shaping the market. They were simply victims of timing and failure to respond in a timely enough manner.

Numerous business lessons have been taught in terms of horse carriages versus the automobile. For those that failed to acknowledge the transformation of transportation from traditional means to the more promising allure of the automobile, their market quickly evaporated and they were left without enough customers to keep them in business. Clearly, those that shunned the advancements taking place paused exceedingly long and were never able to recover…with the exception of a few. Despite the seeming extinction of horse carriages, you will find several examples today of specialized companies offering “driving essentials” or “transportation stimulants” targeting this very narrow industry.

Another more recent example that comes to mind is in-store kiosks and navigation systems. Systems were being developed in “thick client” environments requiring updates to be manually performed via physical store visits and rather antiquated measures. At about the same time a number of these systems were being implemented, internet connectivity became more predominant and other companies quickly stepped up to create networks of electronically-connected systems that could be updated from headquarters with ease. The good news is that the content developed to power the in-store systems has increased in value and you will now see remnants of that early-stage work on web portals and e-commerce shopping sites.

Compare that with an example of a company attempting to anticipate the market but who jumped too far ahead. As the market was beginning to shift toward at-home care and recovery, a company approached the team at Hamacher Resource Group with an elegantly-designed portfolio of aids for daily living and mobility products. Unfortunately, timing was not in their favor to deliver to their lofty sales aspirations during the first several years entering the market. Simply put, consumers and family caregivers were hesitant to invest the premium prices on these products when there were a plethora of others on the market that were “good enough” or otherwise covered by insurance plans. This nearly put this company out of business; however, they adjusted their sales objectives downward and began more strategically entering the market. Little did they know as a result of competitive bidding and a movement largely fueled by the Affordable Care Act making at-home recovery more predominant, the company would hit its stride.

In each of these three scenarios, there are valuable lessons. First, timing is indeed everything. Second, perseverance AND creativity are essential to success. Third, even if you feel you have stepped into the fray early, or the market has passed you by, don’t stand still too long or you may not recover. For me, I’ll continue to climb as far ahead and above the industry as I can, and then take a moment to stand still and observe. Why? Because I believe opportunity abounds for anyone willing to take notice.