Avoid the Graveyard: How to Increase Business Longevity


In 1958 the average lifespan of a business was 61 years. Today, the average lifespan is around 18 years, according to a study by McKinsey.

As we walked (and then ran) into the digital age, how, when and where we do business has completely transformed. In its wake, the business graveyard has grown and not many are pausing to mourn the losses of Blockbuster, Blackberry, Yahoo, or any other ghosts of businesses’ pasts.

Some more scary stats:

  • 80% of the companies that existed before 1980 are gone.
  • From 2005 to 2017 only 78.6% of new businesses survive beyond one year.

Predictions from reports such as Innosight’s 2018 Corporate Longevity Briefing are predicting that by 2027 as many as 75% of the companies listed on the current S&P 500 will have disappeared.

Avoiding the Business Graveyard

The first step is to stop thinking about how to survive in the current market. Rather, think about how you can thrive now and in the future. Long-term vision in business will take you from putting out fires to becoming fireproof.

The answer to how to thrive is so simple it’s complicated.

Your company needs to be adaptable at its core; flexible and nimble, ready for and creating change. It’s simple because in a world where change is happening at hyper-speed the need to be adaptable is obvious. It gets complicated because exactly how to do that can be hard to nail down, though not impossible.

Strive to Answer, “How can we help?”

No matter your industry, as you focus on creating real value and the user experience, you’ll adapt more easily as your customer’s needs change. This will also help you develop a long-term success mindset because you’re operating outside your own needs. By thinking of the customer first, you’ll often solve issues your company faces. But it doesn’t necessarily work the other way around.

Find Your Inner Hybrid

The digital experience isn’t going anywhere and the pressure for your business to excel online is as big as ever. However, you need to continually innovate and develop the strengths of your business beyond boosting your online presence or sales.

Staples is an excellent example of this need for dual innovation: securing your current strengths while looking to future growth. Staples adapted well to the new e-commerce market with 60% of its sales being online. However, even at their height in online sales, Staples had also steadily been closing their brick and motor shops and lost their place among leading US companies.

While they adapted well to the demands of the digital, they didn’t do enough to secure their base business model or products.

Create an Innovative Work Culture

Your work culture is one of the telltale signs of longevity. This is where it’s critical to evaluate the mission of your company and how that message is relayed through management and beyond. A positive work culture that instills innovation at its center will have employees eager to innovate and take risks. When management listens, allows failure and includes employees is every discussion, employees embrace creativity.

By making innovation a key ingredient to your work culture, you’ll tap into the talent of the very people you hired for their talent. It’s amazing what delegating can do for moving your company forward. The result will equal continuous innovation, while also attracting and retaining new talent.

Embrace Technology

Technological advances exist because someone somewhere is developing ways to solve problems, overcome barriers and close gaps. Embracing these innovations and how they can work to improve the customer experience or your operations is going to move your company forward.

Avoiding these technologies for the sake of avoiding technology doesn’t do anything but keep you stuck. In fact, customers expect their integrations as a way to make their interactions with your company more convenient and effective. Embracing technology is a way to ensure your company has access to innovation and can remain relevant.

See Also:

Business Innovation – Beyond the Buzzword

Does Your Company Innovate or Wait?

Deep Change: 5 Simple Steps to Jumpstart Business Disruption & Innovation

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