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Business woman performing kick boxing move on a competitor - defending her patchIs any industry safe from digital disruption?

The history of technological development is awash with wildly inaccurate predictions.

“We think there’s a global market for about five computers” said one IBM Chairman in the 1940s.

The same decade, the President of 20th Century Fox proclaimed: "Television won't be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night."

 A decade ago CEO of Microsoft predicted: There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.”

More recently, several thousand business operators swore that they couldn’t see the internet impacting their business in any measurable way.

Ignore it and it won’t go away

I should know. I’ve been told the same thing by business owners for over two decades now in my attempts to warn them about the danger of apathy towards the internet. And they are probably the words of most retailers, taxi companies, bookstores and newspaper publishers at some point in the past decade. 

The truth is, no matter how little internet communications has to do with your industry directly, someone somewhere on the planet is devising new ways to use the internet to gain themselves a sizable chunk of it.

Who is planning your demise?

These people aren’t necessarily technology geniuses. What’s more likely is three key things:

1. They understand how the internet fundamentally works. By this I don’t mean how it physically works as in computers and modems and
     connections, but how it works as a business model by using eCommerce, social media, apps and so on.
2. They understand your industry well, and know that it is predicated on old and outdated business models and systems that are now
     simply unnecessary.
3. They aren’t married to these redundant business practices by employ or income stream. They are unencumbered enough by ‘the old
     way’ that they are able to think clearly about the way things have been done and that there are much better ways of doing things.

If you examine the founders of all of Uber, Amazon, Apple, Google, Youtube and so on, you’ll find that they all possess these characteristics.

That’s all well and good, but what has it to do with smaller business? As it turns out, plenty.

My point is that there’s unlikely to be a single industry that isn’t going to be, or already has, been greatly impacted by the internet.

Too massive to ignore

This revolutionary amalgam of all of communications, channel to market, advertising medium and community facilitator is simply too ubiquitous and powerful not to impact every business there is – no matter how remote it appears from any particular industry.

As this blog has suggested for some years now, the only way to fully insulate your business from competitors you never dreamed of, is to throw away the history books and the operations manuals and re-imagine your business as if it started today instead of the time it did.

No not a decade back, not even five years back. Not even yesterday.Today. How would you design your business with today’s technology, business models and global market?

Lessons learned from former market leaders

If the leadership teams of all of the taxi industry, Borders, Yellow Pages, Kodak, Virgin Megastore, etc etc all had done this on a regular basis, there is no way they would be where they are today.

Instead they would most likely be the market leaders of the industries they play in, having reaped the rewards of extensive industry experience, coupled with a clear understanding of how consumers want to get their product, or more presciently, how they are going to want to get it.

Such an approach provides very clear cues about what you need to do in your business.

Is it the attitude you apply to your business?

ACCAN would like to thank Craig Reardon for this blog. Craig is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond. The E Team assists smaller business with identifying and implementing a range of digital technology solutions. www.theeteam.com.au