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When preparation meets opportunity

Kathleen Quinn Votaw //August 31, 2012//

When preparation meets opportunity

Kathleen Quinn Votaw //August 31, 2012//

“Good fortune is when preparation meets opportunity.” That’s a quote from Jerry Goldstein, former CEO of Scott’s Liquid Gold; who is the son of Ida Goldstein, founder of Scott’s Liquid Gold; and the father of Mark Goldstein, the company’s current CEO. Sixty-one years of family and business history, manufacturing the same successful core product. At the same time, they’ve overcome the risks and challenges of competing against some of the world’s largest manufacturers.

The Scott’s story should reassure people who fear change which, in truth, is most of us. Their successful history illustrates that you have choices. The Goldstein family hasn’t changed the Liquid Gold formula or its original look in all these years—and they still manufacture in the U.S. But the company has changed in many thoughtful ways. It is now public and has successfully diversified into the personal care market, where you’d never expect to find a furniture polish manufacturer. Instead of selling their wares out of the trunk of a car, they depend on their partnerships with retailers or sell online.

They’re a company that’s tied to its roots while embracing change. It’s no surprise that you’ll find them fully engaged in social media—on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube; and you can read their blog.

Growing companies of every kind are in constant flux, or had better be, often changing over short spaces of time. Every business should understand that making a small change of any kind doesn’t necessarily mean a small risk. We’ve all been the recipients of “new and improved” products that made us switch to another vendor, leaving a baffled producer to figure out, too late, how it went wrong.

In general, there are two kinds of change to be aware of:

• No-choice change (customer demand, environmental factors, key person leaves)
• Optional change (efficiency improvements, new markets, key hires)

One critical step businesses often forget when making either kind of change is to evaluate risk versus benefit. (Remember the “New Coke”?) A manufacturer has no choice about whether to change, for example, when its supplier located in a small town in Thailand is suddenly wiped out in a local flood. Or, on the flip side, when a company whose product hits the market with perfect timing generates meteoric growth that it doesn’t have the capacity to handle, it had better change its processes fast.

What makes change different today is the power of social media, which can work for or against you, especially for consumer oriented businesses. In the form of a “social supply chain,” social media provides a major platform for dialog and relationship with vendors and customers. It allows you to test the market about changes before implementing them. It also presents an effective way to connect with prospective partners and clients, as I was reminded recently when the CEO of a major corporation “friended” me. 

A social media connection deepens the relationship and the experience we have when we work together. Conversely, social media can add an unwanted dimension to public relations by amplifying even your smallest misstep.

Most certainly, social media invites people into your life and your business—and, yes, it means change. How you choose to prepare your business to turn those changes into opportunities will tell your fortune.