Think the unthinkable workshop
If asked to describe your business, most companies, particularly young companies would , perfectly naturally describe their core product “ we make/provide a service based upon a “thingy” that does this”.
In order to sell your “thingy” there's usually quite a lot of peripheral activity, skills and relationships that you need to support and enable the process of enabling your customers to be aware of, acquire and use your product. It is the inherent value in these that this process is designed to highlight.
So, here is the unthinkable thought:
Now, here is an informative management game that all business leaders should play.
The premis is perfectly simple, the outcomes can be absolutely game changing.
Overnight the world no longer needs your product !
Maybe you sell lawnmowers and all the grass on earth dies off, or more likely, suddenly a multi-national competitor decides to give away a free product that is functionally equivalent to yours. It doesn't matter how we arrive at this apocalyptic moment for your business, but by some unforeseen event, no one will ever want your core product ever again !
The question that needs examining , then, is what is left that has value and how can that value be utilised in another sphere of business ?
Well, lets look at the lawnmower example again, OK so no one will ever need to cut grass ever again, so what is left
Well here is a possible list you might come up with.
Firstly you have a team of people that know how to work together, that in its self is a great start.
Now some of this team will have generic skills, such as management, sales, marketing and administration talents, others will have very specific skills, there's probably engineers and mechanics in your company and, most likely, someone with a deep interest in botany and gardening.
You have probably got premises, and vehicles and delivery drivers and IT systems and all manner of business infrastructure.
Then , of course, you have your reputation and brand, you have also built up trust with a customer base and credit with your suppliers.
Make a list now for your own company, it often helps to do this as a discussion with other colleagues as it is easy to miss out valuable assets that you have ordinarily taken for granted.
The point is, of course, that your business has a lot of value that is only indirectly related to selling lawnmowers. What business could you point these resources at if all the grass on earth died ?
Well, I would guess there are several. Firstly, your client base. One might reasonably assume that in order to be a garden owner demands a certain level of income per household, so you have a trust relationship with a fairly affluent community in a local geographical area.
You know they have a certain pride in their houses, and have shown a preference for buying from specialist outlets, so they value quality and service over rock bottom prices. They sound to me like a very attractive demographic to any business !
You have the facilities to sell and deliver lawnmowers, so you also have the showrooms,warehousing and logistics infrastructure to fulfil the sale of fairly bulky items and the skills to assemble and maintain mechanically complex merchandise.
OK, it's now just a case of researching what fairly bulky, mechanically complex items might your comfortably middle class customer base might be reasonably expected to buy, ideally where there is little or no quality competition in your location ?
Whatever answer you come up with for your business, and I can already see many for the lawnmower shop, the truth is:
You don't have to wait for the grass to die before leveraging your hidden assets to sell something more than just lawnmowers ! Or widgets or thingy's or whatever it is you think your business does.
After going through the unthinkable scenario exercise, you will no longer be telling people you run a “thingy” business, but a business that has wide ranging capabilities that can serve many markets that includes, but is not limited to, “thingy's”
With this new perspective on your business, maybe the best time to start investing in diversification is right now ?
Let's be clear though, by investing, I'm not suggesting you ditch the lawnmowers and buy up all the available stock of Rotavators ! I'm talking about investing a little time, setting aside a line item on your agenda to regularly review the opportunities beyond your core product whilst the market for the core product is strong and you have the luxury of doing proper market research, building a watertight business plan, sample testing your ideas and getting your timing right. ( Timing has been proven to be one of the most significant factors in a successful product launch, I recommend you read this link )
Think the unthinkable and don't let the grass grow under your feet !
It is perfectly possible to run your own Think the Unthinkable workshop, but often it helps to have someone facilitate and guide the session who is not as close to the business as you are, someone who can take an entirely objective position and isn't afraid to ask the unaskable questions and question the unquestionable assumptions.
If you would like help with this, or any of our growth techniques, please contact us