Trends can be very difficult to recognize or predict early on. In the early days of MySpace and Facebook, who would have predicted it to be the start of a multi-billion dollar industry? Whether you’re on board or not, industry trends will take you in directions you have no control over. Trends are like waves in the ocean, and businesses, both big and small, have to navigate their ebbs and flows.
It’s easier to recognize the trends that work with you and help you along in the direction your business is heading because you feel successful, excited, strong and maybe even intelligent. It is much more challenging to recognize trends that go against your current business strategies because it can cause fear, uncertainty and doubt, which could lead you to question your knowledge and expertise. But trends are bigger than us – it takes more than just one person or one company to set the trends, so all businesses must learn to recognize the ones that will propel you forward.
However, it’s hard to stay on top of trends while managing the day-to-day business. Blocking out some time once a week to focus on understanding what trends affect your industry and how it might affect your business can be helpful. Reading trade and industry news, either in magazines, digital publications or even by following them on Twitter, will also help keep you on top of the latest trends. Try checking your social media feeds daily while you drink your morning coffee, during lunch or when wrapping up your day. Any time of day is fine, as long as you get yourself into a rhythm of studying trends regularly.
Once you have identified the top trends in the market that can help your business grow, you can set strategies that will take you to the next level. In my latest book, Rhythm, I discuss the steps to take to identify and review your winning moves – the strategies that bring you revenue growth. Review your current winning moves against current trends in your industry every quarter to see how they’re affecting your forward progress.
Do your winning moves become even stronger because of current trends you notice? Or do they become weaker or less effective? If it hurts a winning move, take time to work on potential adjustments. If it kills your winning move and turns it into a losing move, then it’s time to dump it and move on to working on new winning moves.
The sooner you recognize a winning move that is off-trend, the quicker you can move your precious resources into other winning moves or even develop a new one to replace it. Come up with a few ideas and then ask yourself these questions:
- Am I passionate about this idea?
- Does it further hone our top competence or skills?
- Will this idea generate the right type of revenue (business that we are great at delivering)?
- Does it take us closer to achieving our long-term goals or further away?
If you answered yes to the first three questions and you think it’s something that could help get you closer to your long-term goals, then it’s time to objectively compare your ideas and decide which winning moves are worth pursing based on their impact and ability to execute.
In addition to developing your winning moves, it’s also a good idea to have a weekly “Think Meeting” with your team to discuss trends. I know you are probably thinking, “Ugh, not another meeting,” but this doesn’t have to be a long, drawn out formal meeting. My business partner, Cindy and I have lunch once a week to discuss these ideas. During this time, don’t focus on choosing strategies, rather focus on thinking and working on the ideas. Allow yourself to dream a little and figure out the execution part later.
So now that you’ve got a winning move, it’s time to develop your execution plan to bring your ideas to life. Come up with key initiatives and work them into your annual plan to help get you closer to achieving your objectives. Each quarter, you should track and test your progress toward achieving your winning move. It’s important that you keep testing your assumptions, documenting new discoveries and making adjustments to the plan as you go.
Lastly, create a few key performance indicators (KPIs) that link back to your winning move to track how you’re progressing toward your goal. Discuss these KPIs objectively during your weekly team meeting to see if your winning moves and adjustments are working.
No matter what you do, trends will always ebb and flow, so don’t stress over them – work with them. It may seem like a lot of work to observe trends daily and then discuss them weekly and quarterly, but having this ongoing rhythm will help better prepare you for your annual and strategic planning sessions.