Build a culture that can pivot to meet the needs of consumers

One of the most important aspects of leadership is the willingness to take a step back and regroup when business falls short of expectations.

It may be that the market has changed and your product or service offering is no longer relevant to consumers. In other cases, the problem isn’t what you are offering but how you are packaging it that creates a disconnect. Either way, the ability to adapt when things don’t go as planned is a must in order to be successful and profitable in a constantly evolving economy.

Irene Rosenfeld faced this type of challenge when she returned to Kraft Foods in 2006. She found that the company was on the verge of doing away with the Oreo brand in China.

Consumers there simply weren’t interested in the cookie and a $60 million factory in Beijing was sitting empty due to the lack of sales. Before taking such a drastic move, Rosenfeld and her team reached out to see what they could do to make the iconic brand more appealing to the Chinese people.

The response they got was that Oreos were both too big and too sweet. So the Chinese Oreo was created, a cookie that is smaller, less sweet and actually comes in a green tea flavor.

It quickly became a hit and the effort laid the groundwork for a move in late 2012 to launch Mondelez International, a spinoff of Kraft that generated about $30 billion in 2015 net revenue. Whether you’re a billion-dollar business or a company that earns $50 million in revenue, the key is creating a culture that is willing to adapt to the needs of consumers.

Communication is a critical component to making big changes in your company’s strategic direction. Change can be a scary thing for employees who wonder what this new course will mean for their role in the company.

In some cases, they put in a lot of time and effort to help you craft this plan that is now being scuttled. Be open about what you’re seeing in the marketplace that is driving this conversation about change. Help people understand your thought process and what you have in mind to get everything back on track.

It may be that you need to make some painful personnel decisions to prepare your company for the next phase of growth. Express your appreciation for what those who are being let go have done for the company.

Do whatever you can to help them land on their feet. Give the people who are staying every opportunity to be part of the future by providing a forum that allows them to share their perspective on what needs to be done as you go forward.

The reality is you need a diversity of opinions in order to compete in today’s economy, no matter the industry. Be willing to listen and take action to preserve your company’s future. There’s no time to waste.

Fred Koury is president and CEO at Smart Business Network Inc.