When was the last time you took some time to truly step back from the day to day running of your business and considered how the world around you has changed? The problem is that we are all so engrossed in what we are doing that we simply don’t have the time for such luxuries.

I don’t believe this sort of exercise is a luxury. I believe it’s an absolutely essential activity for any responsible business owner. The consequences of not doing so can be catastrophic as many very well known High Street names can attest.


The list of famous High Street names which have disappeared in the past five years is endless. Names that spring immediately to mind are Woolworths, Blockbuster, Clinton Cards, Phones4You, Dewhursts, Comet and Unipart Automotive. Not all of these businesses failed because they had omitted to scan their environment properly for changes, but for many, their failure was for exactly that reason.

One of the problems is that change happens relatively slowly and so day to day changes seem minor and unimportant. However, when looked at over a longer time frame, they can be absolutely fundamental.

Many years ago I was told a story to illustrate the point. If a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will stay where it is until it is cooked to death! Now, I don’t know if this is really true, and I certainly haven’t tried it for myself, but it acts as a great metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people or businesses to react to significant changes that occur gradually.

With this in mind, I would highly recommend that every couple of years or so, you go through a formal exercise whereby you systematically review your external environment for changes that may affect your business in the future. How are you customers’ buying habits changing? Are there substitute products on the market that do a better or more cost effective job than your products or services? Are all your competitors (and more importantly your customers) trading on-line these days and you have yet to develop an effective online trading portal?

Look for the opportunities and threats that arise for the changing environment and make sure you take action to embrace the opportunities that present themselves and safeguard against the new threats.

In conclusion, don’t allow yourself to boil to death! Undertake a full review of your business environment and use it to take the opportunity to innovate. It’s from innovation that you can build yourself a clear competitive advantage which will help you build your business and protect your investment for years to come.