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Avoid Betamax's fate by anticipating change

Pardon the cliché, but for the modern small business, change is as certain as death and taxes.

The days of the stable, reliable business are mostly gone. Whether you bake bread or run a PR firm, change comes quickly and relentlessly. The mistake many small-business owners make is to wait too long and get left behind.

While the pace of change may seem intimidating, it's good to remember that with change comes opportunity. Evolving technology, consumer tastes or regulation all offer an opportunity to expand your clientele, offer new services or solidify your customer base.

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The challenge is to anticipate change and act decisively.

Regardless of what industry you're in, you have to be aware of changes that may impact your business. A pool company, for instance, has to know that there is a growing demand for salt-water systems, or that safety covers have come down in price. They should also know that the traditional method of advertising won't suffice (a number on the side of a van doesn't cut it any more).

Next, if you've got an idea you think could revolutionize your business, be bold. Entrepreneurs should not be afraid of making changes – the reality is that you can always fix them if you make a mistake. Take a cue from industry leaders that have tried new ideas and failed: Ford had the Edsel, Sony bet on the Betamax, and of course we will never forget New Coke.

One pair of entrepreneurs I know are keen proponents of this philosophy. Chetan Mathur and Clara Angotti are not afraid to make radical changes in light of industry developments. Their approach to managing a tax advisory firm Brendan Moore & Associates is a good example of seeing opportunity where others see a threat. Many in their industry thought that the introduction of HST in Ontario and B.C. would eat into the margins, but Mr. Mathur and Ms. Angotti saw an opportunity. They changed their service offering and challenged their staff to be experts on the subject, and their business went on to have its best year ever.

Being bold, creative, and in-tune with change will ensure that your products are relevant, your staff is engaged, and your customers stay happy and loyal. And ensuring you not only embrace the change, but communicate it to your customers and prospects is critical to driving growth.

Special to the Globe and Mail

Mia Wedgbury is president of the Canadian region for Fleishman-Hillard Canada and its sister company, High Road Communications. With more than two decades of experience in creating and growing award-winning communications agencies, she is focused on fostering the overarching vision for the Canadian market. Her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle. She works in partnership with her clients, some of the most innovative and well-respected companies in the country, to build brands, mitigate risk and shape communications strategies that drive measurable results. Ms. Wedgbury is known as an innovator, an advocate of career opportunities for women and a dedicated supporter of the technology industry.

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