Innovate and adapt your business

29 November 2017

A look back at a past Connect Event.

Event highlights

At our Connect Event, Innovate and Adapt Your Business, attendees heard from Gus Balbontin, entrepreneur, investor and adventurer. Gus is also most notably known as the former Executive Director of Lonely Planet where he guided the company through its digital transformation. During the Connect Event, Gus shared some of his insights about how businesses can best operate in this fast-changing digitally-disruptive world.

Innovate and Adapt Your Business: Bankwest Connect Event highlights

Adaptability is the key to survival

Business owners need to focus on their ability to adapt, rather than trying to be the strongest or most intelligent, in order to survive in a digitally disrupted world.

That was the key message at a recent Bankwest Connect Event from guest presenter Gus Balbontin, the former Executive Director of Lonely Planet who helped guide the global company through its digital transformation.

“It’s all about adaptability,” Gus told the audience of business owners at the November event.

“This is the single most important capability that all of us (business owners) spend the least amount of money and time and effort in developing.”

He said business owners are easily distracted by other aspects such as market segmentation, technology trends and competitors.

“I’m not saying they’re not important because they are absolutely critical as well. But the most critical one of them all is adaptability.

“It doesn’t matter how well you understand your market and your customer, if you can’t adapt to it, you can’t do anything,” he stressed.

Why is adaptability so important?

Businesses both large and small need to be adaptable because the needs and wants of customers can change so quickly, particularly as digital disruption continues to turn established industries on their heads.

“Your customer changes all the time. Don’t ever underestimate customers changing. Don’t ever think the customer stands still,” he said.

Customers will choose the path of least resistance, according to Gus, in order to have their needs and wants met.

He pointed to the media industries, such as newspapers and music, as failing to be adaptable highlighting their slow transition online.

And although these were some of the first industries to be hit by the “technology wave” of digital disruption, he said no business should be complacent that they won’t be impacted in the future, regardless of size or industry.

Focus on customer problems

One of the biggest mistakes that businesses can make is to focus on their business problems, rather than their customers’ problems, according to Gus.

“When you fix the business problems, and that is the same as the customer problem, then everything is okay. But the moment the customer problem changes and you continue to fix your own problem, you get in trouble,” he said.

Gus referred to how Napster disrupted the music industry by focusing on the problem of listening to music, not the problem of selling more cassette tapes. Napster fixed the customer problem, not the business problem.

“The customer doesn’t wake up in the morning saying, ‘I can’t wait to buy cassette tapes’. The customer wants to listen to a song,” he said.

“You have to remember that the goal is to identify the customer problem.”

Adapting to a changing market

Gus said when challenged, it was common for business owners to blame anyone but themselves, such as industry issues, regulation, the economy or even the customer.

But business owners must remember that they are always part of the problem and part of the solution, he said.

“In order to be able to deal with disruption, in order to be adaptable you must own it. You need to know that you are part of the problem and part of the solution. You can’t be one or the other.”

To adapt, Gus said businesses needed to try new ways of working, develop new products and services and be comfortable with failing.
“Failure is the only way to succeed,” he said.

“Markets are changing so fast these days that the only way you’re going to figure it out is by failing.

“It should not be catastrophic failures, it is small failures. Keep trying, screwing it up, and try again.”

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Things you should know

The information contained in this article is of a general nature and is not intended to be nor should it be considered as professional advice. You should not act on the basis of anything contained in this publication without first obtaining specific professional advice. To the extent permitted by law, Bankwest, a division of Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124 AFSL/Australian credit licence 234945, its related bodies corporate, employees and contractors accepts no liability or responsibility to any persons for any loss which may be incurred or suffered as a result of acting on or refraining from acting as a result of anything contained in this publication.