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MCLELLAN: The only constant is change


You know, the annoying thing about clichés is that they’re based on truth, though that truth may be a bit worn in places. And lately I’ve been very aware of the idiom “the only constant is change” as it relates to business.

Maybe it’s always been this way and our parents and grandparents had to wrestle with constant change too, but it seems to me that the acceleration curve has gotten incredibly steep over the last 15 or 20 years.

For example, when I started my career, computers were certainly a part of the mix, but we never showed a client a computer-generated layout. We’d take mock-ups that were drawn in pencil and very rough. Today, we upload PDFs to our extranet, and they look practically finished before we’ve even begun.

I get it. I’m the first one to espouse the convenience of our new way of doing business. I love that we can work with clients (and partners) from all over the world – digitally sharing files and ideas and collaborating.

So while I long for the showmanship of the old days, I do appreciate what we have today. But sometimes it also makes me a little tired of thinking about it.

Here’s our reality as business people. It’s never done. No matter how successful your business is, it’s still in transition. Every day.

There’s a new technology or a new consumer trend right around every corner. And to stay relevant and profitable, there’s no hiding from them.

Last week, I gave a presentation to a room full of bank and credit union leaders about what’s coming at them in terms of mobile banking.

Looking across the room as I spoke, I could see that while some of them were anticipating this tsunami of a trend, others were either not ready for it or weren’t looking forward to facing it.

Keep in mind that many of them are still trying to build their online banking infrastructure to compete against the big banks, and now they have to develop a mobile platform too?

So how do we keep up? How do we stay current and able to anticipate what the next change is going to be so we can get a running start?

Read. Do you know that most business leaders don’t read anything more than their local newspaper? Are you kidding me? Turn off the TV and read a book a month. Find the top 10 blogs in your field and subscribe to them. Find the most controversial, far-out-there publication or blog in your industry and subscribe to that too. It’s better to anticipate too much than get blind-sided by something.

Attend. Trade show and professional development attendance has been dropping since the recession took a big bite out of everyone’s travel budgets. It’s time to put some money back on that line item. You need to go and listen to experts. You need to hang out with peers and share stories and resources.

Teach. One of the best ways to learn is to commit to teach others. Make sure your entire staff is ready for what’s coming. More important, teach them how to recognize the trends and track them, so you don’t have to be the only one doing it. If you know you have to conduct a class, even if it’s an informal one, you’re much more likely to keep sharp.

There are lots of ways to stay current, but it all starts with the attitude of recognizing that it’s a part of your job and it’s one of the ways you keep your company relevant and profitable.

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