We talk weekly with members of the Cardwell Beach team about strategy, marketing, and sales techniques. This week, Matt Hansen interviewed Mike Beach about the important role that change plays in business success and how Cardwell Beach has evolved since its early days.
Q: Why do you feel that the idea of change is so important for businesses looking to grow?
A: Businesses need to not just embrace change but be obsessed with the evolution of their business. It’s the only way to grow.
Take Cardwell Beach, for example. The reality is that we have tried lots of different things. It’s not that they didn’t work—the company is growing at a good pace—it’s simply that they worked for a certain time and then we outgrew those particular tactics.
Marketing creatives are told the sky is the limit. Trying new things is embraced because there are lots of forces, both internal and external, that will almost always pull you back no matter what you propose, so you might as well push the boundaries.
In business, risk is less embraced unless you’re in decline. If things are steady, the temptation can be to not rock the boat. But the whole point of a business is to grow, and sometimes that requires change on your own terms before the market forces you into it. I’m a big believer in proactive yet measured change and experimentation—especially when times are good, assuming you don’t overextend yourself.
Q: In the early days of Cardwell Beach, did you make a conscious decision to be nimble and change frequently, or was it something that you adapted to over time?
A: Well, at the beginning, it was very easy to change and take risks because we essentially started the company as a side thing while we all worked day jobs. We had the attitude of: let’s change it up and try it this way, and if it works—awesome; and if it doesn’t work and it all goes down in flames, we still have our nine-to-fives. Even though the nine-to-fives are long gone, the general attitude is still intact—although we’re far less cavalier now. Now, if we try something and it doesn’t work, we just scale back. Anyway, pushing forward just became natural.
Q: What advice would you give to companies that are already established that are thinking about evolution and change?
A: Focus on your biggest problem, build your team based on who is best equipped to solve it, and then move on to your next biggest problem. It sounds simple, but it can be difficult to compartmentalize like that— especially if you’re facing multiple challenges at once, because “multiple challenges” often means “overlapping challenges.” Ironically, that’s why it’s all the more important to focus on one thing: Get it right and you’ll actually help solve other problems; get it wrong and you’ll create more problems.
Q: What methods would you recommend companies use to identify what their biggest problems are?
A: Every business is different. If you’re a marketing company, look at your profit and loss statement, your client list, and a list of where business came from over the past year. You get into the numbers and you look at the past two months versus the past twelve months. You look at total revenue. Then you look at the share of revenue by client, share of revenue by deliverable or what you’re actually making, share of revenue by channel or where the lead came from, and share of revenue by industry.
Like I said, every business is different, so there is no universal answer. It’s kind of a matter of matching numbers to problems and opportunities— at least as a first step. How has your revenue in the past two months changed when compared to the past twelve months? What trends can you see? What is growing fast? Who is your best customer and what are you doing for them? You start to understand what you are doing that is working, as well as what is not working.
And always reexamine your assumptions. Confidence is great, but certainty is dangerous.