In Good Company Blog

4 Essential Business Lessons Not Just Learned But Incorporated: Lesson 4 – Adapt

adapt best business lessons of 2012 Adelaide Lancaster Forbes.com

The learning curve for all entrepreneurs is a steep one that never quite flattens or slows. While it’s great to learn a lot, the pace and intensity makes it hard to absorb, never mind implement, the lessons learned. Kind of like when youused to cram for an exam. You knew the information really, really well for about a day before it became lost in the deep recesses of your brain. That’s why, at the end of the year, it’s really important to reflect on what you’ve already learned before you outline what else you want to accomplish. This is especially important when you are a very small business as you probably don’t have the resources to learn expensive lessons over and over again.

I asked a few entrepreneurs to share their best business lesson of 2012 as well as how they’ve changed their business. The lessons are nothing new. We’ve all learned them – probably several times over. But what’s really compelling is how these entrepreneurs incorporated these lessons into their business practice. They spent time digesting before reaching for more. As a result, their businesses have evolved and improved considerably. Use their example as motivation to do the same!

Lesson 4: Adapt
Inge de Boer-Kelly, I N K Y
Snakeskin clutches and flats

Inge manufacturers and sells beautiful and brightly-colored snakeskin clutches and flats. When she initially set up her business this year, she assumed – without much deliberation – that the bulk of her sales would come from within the USA. Naturally, she created business and marketing plans to suit. They all detailed her likely domestic sales channels and predicted business growth.

Then a funny thing happened. While her domestic sales chugged along, her international sales inexplicably began to take off. Initially Inge chalked it up to a fluke and stayed focused on her domestic targets. When it became clear it was indeed an enduring trend, Inge wondered what she was doing wrong. She asked herself what she could and should do to shift her sales to the US. And there wasn’t much she didn’t try. While domestic sales would perk up, they just weren’t able to eclipse the international demand.

It wasn’t until six or so months that Inge decided to adapt her approach. She realized that she needed to be flexible about her expectations and plans. Inge stopped fighting her business and put aside her preconceived notions about what the business should be doing. Instead of trying to compete with her existing customer base, Inge tried to grow it. She analyzed her existing, successful transactions and looked for ways to nurture and replicate them. And her adaptability has paid off. By the end of the year her line was being carried in several overseas stores while continuing to enjoy strong international retail demand. Inge hasn’t put aside her hope of growing the domestic market altogether. It will come. But in the meantime, she is focused on the business she has rather than the one that she doesn’t.

Lucky for Inge, she learned about the power of adaptation early. We entrepreneurs all know that many (or most!) things don’t go as expected in business. But what’s important to realize is that doesn’t necessarily matter. It’s not our ability to predict, but our ability to adapt that is most critical. We must continuously work off of what we know now, instead of what we thought then. This is why reflection on our own lessons learned and actions taken is so very important.

How do these entrepreneurs’ lessons resonate with you?

What lessons of your own have you learned and acted on this last year?

Catch up on Lesson 1 (Focus),  Lesson 2 (Collaborate),  and Lesson 3 (Simplify).  Or, read the full version on Forbes.

Pic via.

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