2015 Will Bring Changes: Is Your Smallbiz Ready?

Beanie BabiesIt’s a tale of two Teddy bears, one that has had a long career and the other that was merely a flash in the pan. The “one hit wonder” was Beanie Babies and the one with staying power is Build a Bear Workshop.

If you or your kids have a closet full of Beanie Babies, (as I do) you probably know that they are virtually worthless today. However, during their 15 minutes of fame, people were lining up at stores to get the latest release and their price on the resale market was through the roof.

The Teddy bears that customers make at the various Build a Bear Workshops located around the world, aren’t subject to the extremes in value that we saw with Beanie Babies. Further, I expect they will continue to find their way into hearts and homes for generations to come.

Here’s my question for you today: Is your business riding a wave of current popularity, or its its success being carried by something more substantial?

Surviving long term

Sometimes we mistake luck for genius. Fortunately, Ty Inc., the company that made Beanie Babies, developed other lines of plush toys and was able to survive the downfall of the Beanie Baby fad. Maxine Clarke, Build a Bear Workshop founder, developed a business that is much more than Teddy bears.

She created an experience families and friends could enjoy together. Not only are Teddy bears produced, so are memories. Further, Maxine expanded her business around the world.

If your small business is too “one note,” you need to figure out what to do next that will sustain it as trends shift. One day Starbucks management woke up and discovered that they needed to do a little more than just serve coffee and a few bakery items. The company expanded its menu.

An important key here is to carefully examine consumer and business trends. When buying patterns shift, you don’t want to be the last person to notice. Compare Netflix and Blockbuster. Blockbuster was always behind the curve when DVD rentals moved from neighborhood stores to being web-based and it proved to be a fatal mistake.

Netflix’s midcourse correction

However, although Netflix was quite successful with its “through-the-mail” model, it sensed that web streaming was the future and separated streaming from its online-ordering. After the split, streaming cost more for consumers and they complained for about an Internet minute, then accepted it.

Netflix took a gamble rather than stick with a business plan that it knew would be ultimately obsolete.

It has been said many times that change is the only constant and change comes faster today than ever before. While we aren’t all Steve-Jobs-like geniuses who can anticipate change before it happens, we should be able to sense the initial indicators of change and make smart adjustments.

How can you work with your business model and make it more sustainable going into 2015?

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* Image: Beanie Babies, © 2005 Joel Telling, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.