Every successful business adapts and changes, whether it is related to customer tastes and preferences, market and economic conditions, competitors, technology, or all of the above, all at the same time.
The 2020 pandemic certainly brought swift changes that impacted virtually every business in some way. While some of these changes were new, many were emerging trends that accelerated.
Business cultures that do not embrace change, flexibility and adaptation were likely much more challenged than those who do. The past year has certainly taught us at Arvest Bank that facing new challenges head-on with a willingness to adapt quickly and boldly is critical for long-term success.
One of the most challenging aspects of this is that many business leaders fear moving too quickly and boldly can expose them to significant downside risk, which means that change often makes us uncomfortable.
A key to success in today’s rapidly changing business environment, though, is understanding change is inevitable due to the accelerated pace of technological change.
It is human nature for many of us to resist change, and often companies are the same way, to some extent. Older companies, in particular, can have the most difficulty with change because of long-established norms.
A great example of a company culture that has fully embraced the idea of change is Netflix, formed in the late ’90s as an online DVD-rental store, bucking the concept of brick-and-mortar movie rental stores. Continuing to evolve, it then pivoted to video on demand (as DVD sales fell) and eventually became the world’s largest streaming service — and a movie studio, no less.
By contrast, Blockbuster has only one remaining franchise store in existence. There is even a documentary about the only surviving store in Bend, Ore. Ironically, the platform streaming the documentary is Netflix.
The unfamiliar can be scary at first, but business leaders must be vigilant in their desire to improve their company by looking for ways to benefit customers, team members and employees through change.
That is not to say you should change for the sake of change. Your business’ best change is to grow by adding to what you are already doing well, delivering more to your customer.
This will be my 25th year with Arvest, and our industry certainly has seen a lot of change since my career began. Mobile banking’s arrival brought with it 24/7 access from anywhere and over time has transformed how customers deposit checks, make payments and send money to friends and family. Today, forward-thinking banks operate on a trajectory of constant change and innovation as consumer preferences continue to evolve.
Business leaders cannot go it alone in making changes or searching for the next big thing without buy-in from their associates. They need to trust that their team can help with needed transitions and bring ideas to the table.
Arvest Bank recently adopted a new core value for the company, “Drive Change.” Part of the thinking is to encourage associates who have an idea to challenge the status quo and elevate these ideas within the organization. Too often the business world is guilty of thinking change only comes from the top. Sometimes it does, but many times it does not … and should not.
The more productive way of operating is encouraging a three-way conversation between customers, associates and management because each has a different perspective and experience within the business. We all have to exercise flexibility and willingness to try new things to respond to customer needs.
Being averse to change can lead to complacency, which is not a good thing for businesses. It is better to accept it and drive it, which is better than fighting it to the end and then being forced to change as a late adopter.
It is also important for all businesses to stay nimble and understand that willingness to change is essential not just in troubled times but all the time. A common misconception is that you need new people to change. That is not true. You need people, whether long-term associates or leadership, who are empowered and encouraged to drive change.
Jason Kincy is the senior vice president and executive director of marketing for Arvest Bank. The opinions expressed are those of the author.