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  • Writer's pictureKeith Kemph

Reinvent or Die - What’s a Prescription?

By Keith Kemph

Reflect on the past to understand the future…

Over the last ten years, there’ve been numerous articles headlining notable business failures. Businesses such as Kodak, Blockbuster, Circuit City, Blackberry, JC Penney, and of course, Sears and KMART. Each article serving as great, high level, reminders of, if a firm doesn’t reinvent itself – the results are fatal.

So, what’s next? Where does a reader go from there? What’s a practical prescription for reinvention that the ‘average’ business, banker, mortgage banker can employ to avoid extermination? Even as the financial services space enjoys some revitalization and reinvention based on buzz words like FinTech, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain, and Robotics Process Engineering (RPA)– we still must ask, what does that mean? Are firms reinventing themselves or are they just trying to keep pace?

Two very different paradigms. If everyone else is becoming the same, then it would seem everyone remains at risk, essentially a zero-sum game. Is the reality that the rush to the newest energy, is blinding the existence of true reinvention? Highlighted below are four practical steps an organization can consider to successfully reinvent.

Change the Culture – Everything starts at the top. Leaders need to foster a culture of innovation and continuous improvement – and I don’t mean in terms of just operational efficiencies or adding a suggestion box. Leaders need to be fostering a culture of customer awareness, customer engagement, and truly understand the average customer experience. What’s working, what’s not, what’s the data saying, what are the survey’s communicating, what are the buying trends telling you? Are you going deeper, does your firm have a Business Intelligence team that is combing through data, analyzing visible and less obvious data points – actively looking for opportunity?

Has your firm designed and implemented a role that focuses solely on customer’s needs and their continuous evolution? Leaders should be building and implementing a framework that will be continuously analyzing the trends, interviewing the front-line, and interviewing customers.

Does your firm respond to a customer complaint or do you ‘own’ it and make it right? Perhaps you should create a learning environment where you are teaching staff about AI, Blockchain, and RPA so as the innovative ideas start to flow; they will dovetail into leveraging those delivery methods. Leadership should then be actively discussing and evaluating the menu of new and creative possibilities, beyond technology. Opening the doors to innovation through culture can serve as a powerful starting point.

Build Your Risk Assessment Framework – Determine your risk levels. The leadership team needs to accept that with any change or slow migration into a new or enhanced direction; there will be a risk. As a result, the leadership team needs to define a risk evaluation framework to operate from as new ideas and possibilities surface. Moreover, I’m not referring to a project justification form – I’m referring to a real risk assessment of embarking on each possible business transformation, to achieve reinvention; define risks, how you'll mitigate the risk and exposure while validating the ROI.

Analyze the Overall Marketplace – What is the market telling you? I’m not talking about what vendors are selling as the perceived future – I’m talking about the actual marketplace. What’s the marketplace, outside of your vertical, doing? What are your customers starting to gravitate to in everyday life? What are the general buying trends? Short-term trends and long-term vision can both be volatile to build on, so what are the intermediate, sustainable, patterns telling you?

People talk about a global marketplace, but are they thinking about the global markets to help guide their organization to successful reinvention? What are the headlines telling you? Where is energy in the market shifting to? Reflect internally, how long has it been since you conducted a competitor analysis or SWOT analysis. While there is a time for heads down focus, it's equally important to look up and look out on the horizon.

Decide and Execute – Once your firm has fostered a culture that sets the stage for reinvention, you've designed a framework for full risk assessment, analyzed the overall marketplace, then, it’s time to make a decision and commit to a renewed vision. Remember, no decision is worse than making the wrong decision.

Whether leveraging this model, or any other method to conduct due diligence for reinvention, you’ll have the confidence you need to move forward. While getting to the decision point can be a long and arduous process, the hardest part to successful reinvention, will come down to execution. You'll only get one shot at it, so make sure your plan for execution is methodically prepared and deployed.

In the end, you have a responsibility to your customers, and your staff, to reinvent. Sure, either side of the coin (stay the same vs reinvent) contains risk, but even someone like Jeff Bezos understands this reality. A modern-day Bill Gates, who is in the middle of reforming the world, devouring the likes of Toys R Us and Sports Authority, making millions along the way. He isn’t blinded by his success, as he recently predicted his firm will one day go bankrupt. Jeff Bezos is clearly humbled by the death of other, once, leading businesses and embraces that his firm must continually reinvent. If significant brands like IBM, Nokia, Western Union, or Apple can – why not your firm?

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