Staying Ahead Of The Game: The Role Of Constant Adaptation In Small-Business Success - Sheba Consulting | Fractional Leadership Services | Fractional COO | Fractional CTO | Fractional CPO | Operations and Back-Office Services

Staying Ahead Of The Game: The Role Of Constant Adaptation In Small-Business Success

 Adi Vaxman
March 3, 2023 8:30pm ET
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Small businesses make up 99.9% of U.S. businesses and are a crucial part of the nation’s economy. In 2022, a whopping 92% of all small businesses were owned by members of Generation-X and the Baby Boomer generation, according to research from Guidant Financial.

If you, like me, are a small-business owner in their mid-40s to mid-50s, you are a part of a very special generation of business owners. Our generation witnessed and was a part of two major revolutions: the digital revolution and the mobile revolution. We vividly remember the days before the internet, email and cell phones—the days of dial-up modems, bulletin board systems (BBSs), textual internet relay chat (IRC) chat servers and floppy disks. We were there when “brick” cell phones were first introduced; when the first digital cameras popped up; when mobile phones began to have the ability to email and text; and when software moved from expensive servers and desktops to the cloud.

Those are only a few of the incredible technologies that we personally experienced changing before our eyes. Some of us took an active role in their creation.

As a young manager, I worked for a long-forgotten Israeli tech startup that invented what is known today as Wi-Fi. I flew all over the world, installing antennas and programming networking devices.

I also worked for another Israeli tech startup that created the very foundation of the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) we know today. As a young sales engineer, I met with big telco executives, trying to convince them that “plain old telephone service” (POTS) telephony was in the past and that this was the future. They had a very hard time hearing this from a 20-something-year-old, but it was true.

Fast forward to 2023, years into a major pandemic. Businesses changed and transformed. The workplace, too, moved to the cloud. Remote work became a standard.

Over the past seven years, my team and I have helped transform, grow and scale nearly 100 businesses. And the No. 1 lesson I’ve learned? Business owners should change their mindset constantly or risk getting left behind.

What used to be the standard of how things were done may no longer be relevant. “This is how we’ve always done it” could be a business’s worst enemy.

Let’s talk about some examples.

The future of sales is heavily reliant on networking, social media and building a personal brand. Gone are the days of cold calling and emailing as primary means of reaching out to potential clients. Today’s consumers typically do their research beforehand and expect businesses to have an online presence and a strong reputation.

Creating helpful content is crucial in the modern business landscape. By providing valuable information and resources, business owners can establish themselves as thought leaders in their field and gain the trust of potential clients.

Similarly to the sales landscape, the workforce landscape has also changed dramatically. Employees have discovered alternative ways to make a living, found creative ways to monetize and capitalize on their assets and talents and become less dependent on traditional employers and old-school employment models.

And employers?

They either adapted or got left behind.

The traditional employer-employee relationship for people in my generation typically meant that business owners felt some kind of possessive claim over their employees. But times have changed. In my experience, many of today’s workers value flexibility and autonomy. As a result, many employers have begun to adopt more progressive employment practices, such as offering flexible or remote work schedules and allowing employees to pursue outside projects.

Employers who recognize the fact that they do not own their employees but rather pay for the time they invest in their businesses can benefit from a multitude of options that are now available to them.

One such option is the use of fractional professionals who work on a part-time or project basis for multiple clients. (Full disclosure: I am the founder and CEO of a fractional leadership practice.) While fractional services have been around for some time, they were previously limited by geography. Business owners were often hesitant to hire fractional professionals due to a perceived lack of control over the resource.

The fractional professional model enables business owners to hire experts that may have been previously beyond their reach due to financial or other constraints. By utilizing the expertise of fractional professionals on an as-needed basis, employers can benefit from valuable experience and knowledge without committing to a full-time employee.

When searching for the ideal fractional professional to join your organization, you should include the following important factors in your evaluation.

1. Personal compatibility and style: It’s important to choose a fractional professional who vibes well with your personality, communication style and expectations. You will be working very closely with the person; making sure you get along well is critical.

2. Expertise: The partner you are about to choose for your business should be able to demonstrate how they’ve done this before and what knowledge they have that is relevant to your business and challenges. In some cases, specific industry or vertical expertise is necessary, but not always. Fractional leaders are typically exposed to a wide variety of business challenges and are often able to quickly adapt their knowledge across industries.

3. Practice structure: Consider whether the person you are evaluating is a solo practitioner or part of a firm. In some cases, fractional leadership firms and practices may be able to offer additional services or support that an individual may not. An individual, on the other hand, may be more focused on your specific industry or niche or may have more flexibility.

4. Pricing structure or model: In evaluating fractional executives, business owners should try to estimate the level of engagement that their challenges may require in order to set aside the appropriate budget. It’s important to select a pricing structure that aligns with your budget and business needs. Paying an hourly or project-based fee may give you commitment-free flexibility, but hiring someone on a flat retainer guarantees you a longer-term commitment.

If you are a business owner of my generation, try to remember how the business world has (and our lives have) evolved during our lifetime.

These memories should serve as a reminder that change is inevitable and that keeping an open mind can be the key to growth. By remaining adaptable and flexible, you can position your business for ongoing success in an ever-changing landscape.