I consistently have people scratch their head when they hear me say this one, giving me that look that says: “yeah, I think I get it?” And for those of you that know me, this is (of course) one of my favorite things to say. So, what exactly do I mean when I say it? Keep reading!
Flexibility is key to air power is a business fact, and life motto, that was introduced to me by one of my favorite professors at Crummer – Dr. E. And while it’s taken me more than 10 years to understand the genuine value of flexibility in all facets of life, this quote has been a staple in my vocabulary ever since I understood and applied the first layer of its resonance.
So Many Layers
Take your average airplane. How does this massive hunk of metal stay in the sky and sustain the consistent ebb and flow of air currents? Flexibility! If the wings of the plane were not designed to be flexible enough to move and bend with the aerodynamic pressure that comes from attempting to take anything that dense and heavy and glide it through the atmosphere, the wings would break, and the aircraft would crash. Flexibility is key to sustaining flight. That’s layer #1.
Layer #2? When it comes to management and business, this concept equally applies across the board. And this is, of course, is what we’re most interested in here. The example I’ll use to drive this point home is our most recent experience of the global pandemic. Think of how many corporate Covid casualties we had? The list is extensive. And why? Because they lacked the flexibility necessary to achieve the resiliency required. Or, in layman’s terms, they couldn’t bend so they broke.
Layer #3 is probably the one that hits me closest to home because it’s the one I’ve been practicing personally throughout the last several years. Drumroll please… the key to scalability is flexibility. And we can see it is in so many different examples of our behemoth brands that had the courage to be flexible and reaped significant rewards because of it:
- Netflix: Once a successful streaming company, they carved a major niche for themselves with content creation. And viewers have never been the same since.
- Amazon: They initially started as a books-only platform. Need I say more?
- Google: They launched originally as a search engine and decided one day to introduce AdWords. The rest is history.
And there are so many more examples, including my own. When Biller Genie first started, we launched into the marketplace as a payments company. Within one month of launching, we completely transformed our core offering from payments to a standalone SaaS solution that services the banking and payments industry. And our market share more than doubled because of it.
So, you can see where I’m going here. If any of these companies previously mentioned (including my own) had not had flexibility built into their core structure, none of this would’ve been possible.
The Fundamentals of Flexibility
When it comes to building flexibility into your business model, I recommend focusing on the following three areas:
- Growth: Growth, as a concept, is challenging because we often get stuck in our own heads regarding what the company does, what we stand for, how we do it, and who we do it for. Mergers and acquisitions are a perfect example for this. Anytime you merge with or acquire another brand, it will dramatically change your growth trajectory because it ultimately transforms your business. And maybe the company you’re looking to buy or merge with doesn’t share your same ideals or business plan? So, how can you be flexible enough to come together and create a unified front for a solid foundation?
- Repositioning: Repositioning your core product is another example that requires tremendous flexibility. Let’s go back to the Amazon scenario for this one. They looked at their core product (books) and compared it with their core strength (logistics). And they said “you know what we’re really good at? We’re good at getting things where they need to go and doing it in a really timely manner. Maybe we need to change our core product to match our core offering?” Can you imagine what would have transpired had they not been flexible enough to shift into their strength?
- Financials: And finally, your financial strategy will always require flexibility. We live in a dynamic market with a fluctuating economy. Stability is not necessarily our strength. So, ask yourself the right questions to make your brand flexible enough to adapt. Are you willing to change your pricing? Are you willing to add new revenue streams? Or are you willing to change them? Amazon was willing to change everything and now they profit on every side of the transaction.
Flexibility Fosters Success
It basically boils down to this: there’s always going to be something around the corner –something that’s going to fundamentally change your business. Do you have the flexibility to grow, reposition and profit in the midst of changing variables? If not, your resiliency is ultimately compromised.