A change could do you good
Adapting to new environments is in Pete Baker’s blood. Recalling his grandfather’s journey to success, he share some tips to pivot your business.
In 1884, in the small town of Hasroun in Lebanon, an 11-year-old boy, Thannous Michael Saadi made the brave and pivotal life decision to leave his beloved country with his uncle, to work in a soap factory in Egypt. Having lost his mother at the tender age of nine, he had been living with his father.
While Thannous loved his father, a spirit of adventure began to stir in him, ultimately giving him the courage to leave the comfort of his homeland. This would be a challenging experience for anyone, let alone a child. Armed with a vision of a better life, Thannous faced the challenges head on.
At 17, Thannous got word that a group of Lebanese people were leaving Egypt and heading to the United States. He decided to follow suit and set off to explore the world with some of his fellow countrymen, leaving behind the security of life with his uncle. He boarded a ship and made his way to the US.
Over the next few years he travelled across the country, visiting 45 of the then 48 states.
Upon finishing his exploration of the US at the age of 19, he once again boarded a ship and cruised the Carribean, eventually arriving in the Bahamas. Once settled, he quickly fell in love with the beauty of the islands and the culture. He was ready to settle down. He briefly returned to Lebanon to marry his childhood sweetheart and return with her to the Bahamas.
Together on the island, they created a family, complete with 14 children. One of their sons, Useph Baker, was my father. Thannous would eventually change his surname from Saadi to Baker and adopt the English version of his first name Anthony.
My grandfather Anthony Baker was an incredibly brave man and an exceptional businessman. At the time of his death, he had created a successful empire in the Bahamas. His businesses included numerous commercial real estate properties on Main Street in downtown Nassau and a popular hotel. His original store, founded in 1894, is still in operation to this day. His ability to pivot and adapt, not only to a new country, culture and lifestyle, but also regularly exploring new business opportunities was integral to his success.
In business there have been countless famous pivots that successfully changed the trajectory of a company. One example is Airbnb.
The initial concept behind Airbnb was to provide a housing solution for conferences; air mattresses were used for beds, hence the name. The trio behind Airbnb soon discovered it wasn’t sustainable. However when they changed their focus to travellers looking for a cheap, authentic place to stay, the wheels started to turn on something much, much bigger.
Providing travellers with unique, beautiful, traveller-specific places to stay, Airbnb is now valued at US$30bn.
As we embark on a new year ahead, what changes will you make in your life and business to create future prosperity?
Maybe you won’t leave your country, like my grandfather did – although I know many friends worldwide who consider this option daily for economic, political or safety concerns.
You more than likely will not be changing your name either. However at the dawn of a new year we are all challenged to consider: how can we grow? How can we depart from the comfort of the status quo? What are the changes we can make to pivot?
The entrepreneur in me is regularly considering what changes I should make to my business to remain relevant, create future opportunities and generate further success with new and existing customers. Here are a few smart and practical ways to pivot in the year ahead:
Clean up your image
Companies with good ideas and poor branding go nowhere. Start with your logo, tagline, and business cards. These should be clear and resonate across all marketing related to your business. This is especially important on your website.
Consider the fact that the average click-off rate for first time visitors to a website is seven seconds! If someone visits your website for seven seconds, will they know why they should work with you instead of your competitor? The website should be visually pleasing, responsive, and very direct about who you are, what you do, and why a prospective customer should work with you.
Don’t forget about your brochure. If you do not have one, create one. I created my first brochure in Microsoft Publisher, and I am not a graphic designer!
Communicate with you existing customers (more)
Many consumers have been considering enhancements to their homes during this current lockdown. This certainly includes technology improvements.
Are you sending out newsletters to your customers showcasing the exciting new technologies in our industry? Again, this does not require expertise in graphic design tools. Many email blast platforms are free or very reasonably priced and they offer great tools to quickly generate professional email marketing campaigns.
If you don’t want to blast emails out to your customers, pick up the phone and call them! Check in and share the news about exciting new products.
Categories like wellness, home schooling, and home office enhancements are hot right now. The world is shifting to a more virtual approach and it is important to explore how your products can help enhance that experience.
Develop new revenue referral streams
I am constantly thinking about new revenue streams and ways to build my brand. For example, I benefit from the articles I publish by spreading awareness of my brand. You can also benefit in this regard by contacting your local newspaper or town newsletter to ask if you can contribute an article about technology. Increase awareness and visibility of your brand by exploring new methods to get your name out to a target audience.
Producing articles on subjects you are passionate about is certainly one way to gain visibility, but there are countless other ways to accomplish this such as email blasts and/or physical mailers.
Joining architect, interior designer, builder associations is also a great idea. Earlier last year, I invested the time and money to become a CEDIA Certified Outreach Instructor. With my new training and certification, I am authorized to deliver technology training and education to the previously mentioned groups. Maybe this is something to consider for your market as well?
Review the products you are offering to your customers
As with AirBnb, maybe you will discover that you need to widen your focus to include other target customers with a synergy that matches your expertise and some of your current product offerings.
Much has been explored in the past about residential integrators expanding into light commercial. The trend in the last year is for manufacturers to modify their product offering to include solutions for home offices, retrofit applications, small starter systems for home automation and smart home technology.
My wife and I became empty nesters last year and moved into a new home, with zero technology wired into the home. We did retrofit some technology, but also had rooms that required wireless solutions. Many friends and relatives of mine are downsizing and moving into condos, MDU’s, or apartments.
With these moves, the need for technology is still there. Do you have solutions created to target this audience? Maybe now is the time for you to consider offering some.
You may also review your product offering this year and decide it is time to make some changes to ensure better efficiency in the deployment process, maybe due to a reduced staff. Consider adding additional product categories to address the rising interest in health and wellness, or other popular categories our world has shifted to during this pandemic.
When I was an integrator, central vacuum was included in nearly every project. I have not heard much about it over the past decade, but recently saw it mentioned in an industry publication as a key element to improve IAQ (Indoor Air Quality). I also noticed that security and surveillance is expected to be the second fastest growth category for 2021 – exceeded by networking for the obvious reason that many people now working from home.
What new products or categories will you embrace in the year ahead? How can you create opportunities to sell more to each of your customers and increase your ‘wallet share’ with them?
I don’t plan to change my name or move country in 2021. However, like my grandfather would, I do have numerous plans in action for the year ahead to ensure continued success.