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Pointing your business in the right direction

Why do most firms die young? According to Kemal Mellahi of Nottingham University's business school, which has made a special study of the question, it's because 'organisations don't learn or they learn the wrong lessons'. The majority of companies in any industry spend more time looking inward at operations, rather than outward, watching and researching the market. Unwelcome news is filtered out from day to day and they assume that things will go on as they have done forever. When demand changes, for whatever reason, they are caught completely by surprise. Many hang on to outdated practices and products, hoping that the market will bounce back.

But pushing against the grain is ultimately unrewarding. John Maynard Keynes, the influential British economist, once said: "When the facts change, I change my mind - what do you do sir?" It's something many of us in the window industry have had to consider recently. We can't ignore the signals anymore: we are in the midst of a major change in the replacement casement market. There's a genuine need to change tack or diversify. Most companies in the industry are local businesses. They make, or make and install, within a particular sector. Doing nothing is not an option - businesses are failing every week. But don't underestimate your 'human capital': there's a body of people with skills that can be put to use in other markets. This is where marketing comes into its own. Look at what customers are buying, what you are good at doing and see what scope there is for business in new markets.

Every dog has its day, but it's not the end of the window market. There is immense scope to redo botched PVC-U installations and inappropriate designs that depress the value of homes, and to offer greater attention to looks, security and energy efficiency as well as other home improvement products.

One of the jobs of strategic marketing is to ensure your company is in the right place at the right time to grow profitably. It points your business in the right direction, and helps to create a good mix of business between growth and mature or declining market sectors and look at them with fresh eyes. We don't have to abandon the markets we work in - we have to adapt. If there was ever a time to look at marketing strategy this is it.

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