How To Succeed When Your Industry is Flat

When your industry is growing, it can be easier to remain successful and capture new opportunities. But how do you stay relevant and manage the business when the industry is flat or in decline?

That will challenge most growth strategies.

Technology, as an industry, has been pretty resilient. But we also have faced flat – and even declining – segments. One of the best examples is our copier division. We have sold copiers since the mid-70’s and continue to achieve double digit growth.

Here are some things we’ve done…

  • Acquire for growth.
    When industries mature, business owners are challenged to stay relevant by investing in growth or selling the business. Even in a stagnant industry, done correctly, acquisitions usually deliver synergies and efficiencies, while boosting your organization’s sales. Look for business owners who may be interested in exiting. This can be one of the best ways to grow.

  • Augment the business unit.
    What change can you make to your product or service to add value for your customer? In our case, we went beyond selling copiers to offering Managed Print Services. This allowed us to help organizations more effectively manage print devices in their office. We leveraged technology and changed the service model to deliver more value to our clients and provide them a higher ROI. The result for us has been a solid recurring revenue stream allowing us to sustain growth in this segment.

  • Establish a new, complementary business unit.
    At Marco, we have a history of reinventing ourselves. We started as a typewriter shop and now deliver some of the most advanced technology products and services in the industry. What other services could you provide your target customers? Over the past decade, we have developed five new business units, ranging from Managed IT and Carrier Services to Hosted and Cloud Services. This continues to be a complex transition, but is paying high dividends. Today, I see Marco like a technology mutual fund with multiple business units that help drive the overall performance.

  • Identify what’s growing.
    Even in flat industries, you can find areas of opportunities. In the case of copiers, we have seen an increase in software solutions and document management services. We have seen a shift from storing sheets of paper in file cabinets to providing clients with digital storage solutions that allow users easy access to their documents. More recently, we got into the shredding business to help our clients securely dispose of documents printed from the devices.

  • Manage costs.
    This really means cost cutting, which is quite different than the ways I have previously shared. Not to mention way less fun. I’m actually not very good at this, but I think you get where I’m coming from.
Certainly there are times when exiting a business unit in decline makes the most sense and we have done that, too. But more times than not, we dig in and seek ways to manage the business more effectively and develop a strategy to even thrive in a flat industry.

The key is continually exploring how to stay relevant. In most cases, industries don’t stay flat forever. They usually reinvent themselves, become more diverse and often stronger.

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Topics: Leadership, Strategy, Goals, Financial