Digital transformation has many market leaders scrambling to adopt new tactics and reshape their company cultures to mirror the leanness, flexibility and agility of successful startups that are rocking the commercial boat. Recently, several industries have experienced major disruptions due to startup companies making waves and striking out against the status quo. Digital transformation hinges on a few key concepts, and market disruption and startup culture are a few of the major ones.
I believe that startup companies need to use the inherent advantages that come with being a startup to disrupt markets and gain tangible advantages over established market leaders. Digital transformation is surely going to affect just about every industry, so it’s vital for startup leaders to understand how their companies influence digital transformation in their markets and in their industries. They must then use that knowledge to their advantage. Here are five things to learn from digital transformation.
1. Drive change with people — your most important resource
Technology is evolving quickly, but it’s important to never fall into the trap of valuing tech over every business’ most valuable resource: people. People drive change, not technology. As a startup, you need to make calculated decisions when it comes time to choose founders, suppliers, distributors, talent and other partners. Focus on traits as well as skills to make those decisions.
The wrong people — however skilled and savvy they might be — can destroy a company from the inside out with toxic behaviors and intransigence in the face of digital transformation. You can’t stay competitive if you constantly need to replace employees who can’t adapt their behaviors.
2. Embrace flexibility to succeed
The ideal startup employee is agile and flexible, and eager to embrace change. Startups don’t have the workforce or liquidity to designate specific tasks to specific employees — a trait often caused by the founders assuming a dozen different roles until they can expand. However, the modern business is embracing employees who have a more holistic impact on the enterprise, rather than employees who focus solely on one aspect. Adaptability is vital to success as a startup, and many larger companies are attempting to adopt a leaner, more flexible workforce that mimics startup agility.
Agility also means preventing complacency. One of the reasons that so many small companies have become major market disruptors is because the market leaders carried on with business as usual and weren’t prepared for a game-changer. Don’t let your workforce fall into a humdrum routine. Encourage employees to find new ways to touch other areas of the business and bounce ideas around to promote growth from within. Agility doesn’t just mean being able to tackle different responsibilities when the occasion calls for it. It also means being prepared for any eventuality and preparing the company accordingly.
3. Open company culture to all employees
Your company culture should reflect the core values that inspired you to start the business, as well as your vision for the future. When you place employees in silos — assigning one aspect of the business to which they must dedicate all their working hours — they can quickly lose sight of the bigger picture for the whole company. When you focus on agility over specialty, employees can see and touch more aspects of the company, and your enterprise message will resonate more tangibly with them.
4. Value your data, remain relevant
Information is one of the most valuable commodities on the planet. Every business in every industry has a goldmine of customer data available, and it’s crucial to know how to use it and how to interpret it if you want to stay relevant in your market. Technology allows businesses to learn more about their customers and their behaviors, and real-time tracking can help you pinpoint major disruptive forces in your market.
Data must be a driving force behind all of your major decisions. Any modern startup needs to prioritize data collection and collation. Once you figure out how to reach and appeal to your customer base, your company becomes more futureproof.
5. Focus on customer experience
Large companies often lose sight of the personal interactions between their people on the floor and their customers. They often make decisions that don’t reflect the customers’ best interest. After making such choices, they’ll attempt to “work in” the customer later down the road. This doesn’t bode well in the face of digital transformation, where many larger companies are beginning to value the customer experience more and tailor their decisions accordingly.
One of the major reasons that large companies covet the startup company culture is that there is a much closer connection to the customer. Employees of large companies might struggle to connect the dots between what they do on a daily basis and how it helps customers.
Take time to make the customer experience part of every employee’s decision-making process. When you focus on the customer experience with your brand from start to finish, you make your entire organization more accountable for your company’s success.