Have You Reinvented Your Business Lately?

What has it taken to keep your small business thriving—or even just surviving—for the past four years since the U.S. economy crashed? For my business, it’s been an ongoing process of reinvention.

reinvent yourself

Turns out we’re not alone: A recent survey out from Citibank found the majority (53 percent) of small business owners have stayed afloat or competitive by reinventing their businesses.

Here’s what Citibank found small business owners are doing to reinvent their businesses:

  • 47 percent overhauled their product or service offerings
  • 24 percent revamped their infrastructure, such as technology or staffing
  • 18 percent revamped their sales and marketing
  • 7 percent cut prices or took less profit
  • 3 percent relocated their businesses

These figures don’t surprise me, because reinvention is what entrepreneurs do. (After all, if we weren’t such naturals at innovation, we’d be employees, right?)

I’ve learned a lot about reinvention as a small business owner. When my partners and I started our company in early 2008, just before the economy crashed, we had a well-thought-out business plan targeting one type of market. A few months later, though, our big clients lost their budgets and couldn’t commit to contracts. Time to reinvent ourselves. We turned on a dime and have kept our business thriving as a custom content provider for more than four years. There have been lots of large and small reinventions along the way–and we’re not done yet.

Even when I was an employee, I’ve always liked shaking things up, but one thing that’s surprised me about being in business for myself is that the pace of reinvention truly never lets up. In fact, with 38 percent of small business owners in the Citibank survey describing competition in today’s business environment as “extremely intense,” entrepreneurs were taking other steps to stay competitive:

  • 88 percent stayed up-to-date and current about their industry
  • 70 percent increased time spent working with customers
  • 67 percent updated or upgraded computer systems
  • 52 percent used the internet and social media more
  • 51 percent built a network of suppliers and partner companies

To make these changes happen, 38 percent are increasing capital investments into inventory, facilities and computer equipment, with 75 percent using profits and 62 percent using personal savings to do so. Small business owners’ reinvention process isn’t over, either. In the next 12 months, 50 percent of small business owners say they plan to introduce new products or services.

Now, what these figures make me think is: Who is that 12 percent that aren’t keeping up-to-date on their industry? The 50 percent who aren’t introducing new products or services? The 33 percent who aren’t upgrading their computers? If you ask me, these entrepreneurs are making a big mistake.

In the old days, maybe you could rest on your laurels and feel confident in your hard-won knowledge. Today, you’ve got to keep earning that knowledge over and over again. If you’re not reinventing yourself, not only are you not keeping up—you’re falling behind.

How are you reinventing your business?

Reinvention Photo via Shutterstock

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Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.