As business owners, we have to be aware of business trends that could have an impact on our own businesses. One of the biggest issues is that so many business owners do not spend enough time working ON their businesses, so they don’t spot them.  They always do what they have always done. Life and business is constantly changing and we have to adapt and evolve in order to keep growing. 

I wanted to give you a couple of examples of “local” businesses who ignored trends and sadly are no longer around.  We are all responsible for our actions and where we are in life at any time is primarily down to the decisions we had made up to that moment in time.

Carters of Reading – Here was a company that had been around for 199 years and several generations of the same family. They were an outdoor specialist shop and they closed their doors for the last time in December 2019. The Operations manager used the excuse that they had to close because of changing shopping habits. Shopping habits have been changing for years but they refused to adapt and only set up an ecommerce site 2 years before they went out of business. They were responsible for their downfall. Shopping trends were changing and had been for many years, and they did not adapt their business model in line with this. Think how many other opportunities they would have had in that 200 years to adapt their business model. This was a decent sized business in a prime location on the IDR in Reading and with the right management and vision they should never have gone out of business. They had been in business long before so many other Outdoor specialist shops had even been thought of, and had they adapted and evolved they would have been years ahead of their competitors. Now they are just part of Reading’s history.

Newmans of Crowthorne – This was a highly respected local shoe shop that had been in the same location on Crowthorne High Street for 126 years and they closed for the last time January/February 2020. As we have lived in Bracknell Forest for close to 40 years, virtually every family we knew when our girls were going through school bought their kids shoes from Newmans, including us, It was a massively highly respected shoe shop that offered a great service. Again another business that always did what they had always done and heavily relied on footfall. They had no online offering. They could see what other forward thinking retailers were doing by opening an “online” store but they stayed with what they had always done. Now to some degree if they had expanded their advertising outside the Bracknell Forest area they may have got away with it, but they refused to change and now are history along with Carters.

Both of the above businesses were family businesses spanning several generations and each future generation tended to just pick up where the previous generation left off. If they had taken expert professional help to build a better business they may still be around. Don’t try and be all things to all people. I have been promoting this message for years. Use professionals to help build a better business and keep an eye on trends. 

What about another trend that wasn’t here 12 months ago? – Online networking

Various online platforms to allow people to have meetings without physically meeting had been around for some time, but very few people had connected with them. Then Covid came along and, within days, many people were having online meetings via Zoom or Teams or other platforms. Networking has been the real winner here and those of us who have been partaking will all speak highly about its success and how good relationships have become. There have been many though who were networking in the offline world but have not taken part in the online world. Now I am sure that many thought at the outset of Covid that it would last just a few weeks, so their mindset was just to take a few weeks off networking and then pick it up again. No one could have forecast that it would last 12 months or longer. Those that made the decision to have a few weeks rest have lost out big time, and risk being part of history. Those who went with the trend of online networking have won big time. Those businesss owners who embraced online networking would have picked up the business from those who “decided to have a rest”. I firmly believe that online networking is here to stay – maybe not solely – but as a big part of the networking scene. It has created an opportunity for many that was not there before.

Following trends does not mean you have to embrace them, but you should certainly be aware of them. Watch them, watch what others are doing and make sure if you do embrace them that you are ahead of the curve. Be proactive, not reactive. It could be the difference between success and failure. 

I can tell you about how trends impacted a business I owned and ran for 33 years and how it impacted that business and maybe that is a conversation for another time.

This article was first published on LinkedIn by Richard Knight on 08/03/2021