Handling Change: by a Boomer Entrepreneur

by Tom Walter


It seems like just a few years ago when the great entrepreneur explosion of the late seventies and early eighties took place in the United States. Excitement abounded as small companies opened with bootstrap financing. Some of these companies earned national recognition in magazines such as Inc. During the past 30 plus years, some of those companies became publicly traded. But most that survived remain closely held companies with under 500 employees. The majority of the entrepreneurs that launched those companies and chose to stay versus sell are realizing the value of the business depends on positive relativity to their market. Are they changing and adapting? Those founders have gained acquired knowledge, learned wisdom and emotional intelligence over the years. They knew how to change to adapt to market swings. Their competitive advantage was that ability to change, adapt and expand. Now they face an unstoppable disruptor – age. Change is constant. Change is necessary. Yet the desire to change business models decreases over time. The aging mind uses more discretionary thinking on health, retirement and the loss of friends and the resulting heightened sense of mortality. Older entrepreneurs need to identify change agents within their workforce. Change agents are staff members, of all ranks, who suggest internal systems and process changes. They also identify new products, new markets and how to bring those revenue streams on line. The following are some tips on how to promulgate change agents:

Develop a Culture of Empowerment

Build the company culture around core values that identify how interpersonal relationships must be handled. A great culture provides a decision making process that everyone trusts. Empowerment steps must be built into the culture statement. Staff can then rely on those publicly stated declarations that allow them to try new ideas.

Limit the Words “We don’t do it that way”

Technology has changed the course of many existing systems and processes. Academia is teaching newer approaches to business methodology. Encourage recent college graduates and hires to provide input on how the organization can be upgraded.

Increase Collaboration and Communication

Entrepreneurs instinctively knew what helped them achieve success. But that doesn’t translate into an instinctive knowledge of how to build a sustainable organization. Generation integration will lead to input from all generations, resulting in positive change. Communicate challenges, as well as successes to the organization, actively seeking input about how to address challenges.

Trust Your Staff

If you can’t trust them, then release them. When employees are treated with respect as trusted partners, they become more involved, using their discretionary thinking to better the organization, becoming more loyal and committed.

Recognize and Reward Change Agents

Those that bring successful change to the organization should be the tribal heroes. This simple step will accelerate ideas for change. Ensure that those with good ideas that are not successful are also recognized and rewarded for presenting a change. Coach the change agents, don’t manage them! Remember change starts and ends with leadership.