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Fate of businesses rests in their ability to evolve

Paul Parisi is president of PayPal Canada.

We are living in a time of unprecedented change. The world is moving at an incredible rate, which is exciting for the business world but also tests an organization's ability to keep pace. The corporate landscape is different from what it was just a few years ago.

Imagine being a taxi company right now. Uber, one of the world's largest movers of people, doesn't own a single car. Airbnb, a company that offers accommodation, doesn't own a single property. These businesses were founded fewer than 10 years ago.

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Digital disruption and a growing base of competitors offering new products and services in creative ways are driving change in more established organizations. New players enter the market daily, chip away at market share and eat into profits – ultimately challenging the status quo.

Established companies often lean on their history to prove they have the upper hand, but newer, smaller businesses tend to be more creative, nimble and far more aggressive in their efforts to position themselves for growth. This makes it critical for larger companies to be agile and even adopt the scrappier attitude that newcomers bring to the table.

PayPal, a digital-payments company that has been around for more than 20 years, faced the same challenges that other established companies face. We had to accelerate our growth and compete with emerging businesses.

To do so, I put strategies into place that helped to accelerate growth and infuse a startup mentality within our organization:

  • Pursue strategic partnerships that expand our channels and help attract new customers.
  • Create new sales segments to go after high-value, high-growth customers.
  • Maximize value for existing customers by proactively developing solutions that directly solve a customer’s problem.
  • Inspire and empower employees at all levels to uncover new opportunities, think out-of-the box and go beyond customer expectations.
  • Challenge the notion that “we’ve always done it this way.” Rather than stick with the old way of doing things, the team was encouraged to ask questions to find a more effective way of operating.

Finally, we focused on our culture and used it to meet these challenges head-on.

At PayPal, we identify customer problems and focus on driving innovation to solve them. Coming up with better products and services and launching them to market is not confined to innovation and product development departments – all teams actively participate in driving this approach, across the company.

For example, our customers have repeatedly shared that shipping and logistics are a major barrier to exporting overseas. This pain point has become the focus of several PayPal initiatives. Today, we offer free return shipping, mitigating a high cost typically borne by small businesses. This work is being done across PayPal's business units.

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These solution-oriented ideas that match organically with the culture of an organization are what every business needs to maintain a competitive edge. They can come from anyone, in any department, at any level. Empowering people to think differently and bring new ideas to the table is an investment worth making.

To paraphrase John F. Kennedy's famous quote about the moon landing mission, we do these things – not because they are easy – but because they are hard. I tell the folks at PayPal the same thing. It's vital that businesses embrace challenges. There are huge rewards for those who can accomplish difficult things. The economic fate of businesses rests in their ability to evolve, to better serve customers and keep up with the realities of business.

Executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management in the ongoing Leadership Lab series.

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