Past Success Is No Guarantee For The Future Of A Business

Craig MacMullin: President & CEO, CEED & SEED, Consultant, CPA, CGA, CBCA, CIPP/C. “There are no problems, only solutions.”

In today’s ever-evolving business landscape, resting on one’s laurels is not just a missed opportunity—it’s a direct route to obsolescence. For established businesses, the danger is even more pronounced. The comfort of past successes, the lure of tried-and-tested methods, and the weight of legacy processes can make change seem unnecessary or even counterproductive. However, it’s precisely for these businesses that regular evaluations of their business model and its underlying assumptions become paramount. Here’s why.

Firstly, the market is in constant flux. Consumer preferences shift, technological innovations emerge, regulatory environments evolve, and new competitors rise. The assumptions that a business model was initially built upon might no longer hold. For instance, think about the taxi industry before the advent of ride-sharing apps. The assumption was that taxis, with their medallion systems and established networks, were the default urban transportation mode. This changed almost overnight with companies like Uber and Lyft rewriting the rulebook.

Technological disruption is another powerful motivator. Today’s breakthroughs can render yesterday’s cutting-edge solutions obsolete. Blockbuster, once a behemoth in the movie rental space, failed to anticipate and adapt to the streaming revolution, leading to its downfall. Their business model, which was reliant on physical rentals and late fees, didn’t stand a chance against the convenience of digital streaming.

Moreover, underlying economic factors can also change. Costs of production, supply chain dynamics, and global economic conditions can shift, potentially undermining the profitability of existing business models. For instance, businesses built around low-cost manufacturing in certain regions might find their models unsustainable when wages or export tariffs rise.

Cultural and societal changes play a role too. As societal norms and values evolve, businesses must ensure that their models are in alignment. Brands that don’t evolve in line with progressive values, environmental considerations, or ethical consumerism can face backlash and dwindling market shares.

Lastly, internal factors, like company culture, leadership changes, or shifts in strategic focus, can also necessitate a re-evaluation of the business model. It’s not just about responding to external pressures; sometimes, the need for change comes from within.

In conclusion, established businesses might feel they’ve earned the right to breathe easy after years or even decades of success. But it’s a fallacy to believe that past success guarantees future relevance. By continually evaluating their business model and the assumptions that underlie it, businesses not only safeguard their legacy but also position themselves to seize new opportunities. In the dynamic world of business, adaptability isn’t just an asset—it’s a necessity.