Adjusting focus Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2010

Adapting to change is just a basic element of doing business for John Kratz.

In the field of information technology, Kratz, president of Information Control Corp., constantly has the changing effects of technology, globalization, competitors and the economy on his radar screen. And when factors indicate, he has learned to be flexible, including with the company’s vision.

“We don’t live in a static world,” Kratz says. “You have to establish a vision, you have to stay focused, but you have to be willing to adapt to changes as they become apparent to you. You have to be, I believe, open to the idea that things can change and will change.”

Don’t make radical changes, Kratz says. You need to make calculated decisions if you’re thinking about changing your vision. That means talking to outside sources and gauging the market as well as evaluating your goals as a company.

The process has helped ICC grow to 2008 revenue of $44 million and 400 employees.

Smart Business spoke with Kratz about how to establish and adapt a vision.

Establish a vision. What comes into play is ... the personal and corporate goals that you have, and then trying to develop a picture and how you’re going to realize those goals.

You have to think far enough ahead that you really truly have a vision rather than just quotas for the upcoming year or whatever the period of time in question. I think almost all companies have goals for their monthly objectives or their annual objectives, but for me, a vision is something beyond that — it’s where you want to evolve to be based on what you know about yourself and what you think is achievable.

I think a vision (is) typically maybe three to five years. But again, it’s subject to modification based on all the factors that come into play.

Keep an eye on factors that may lead you to adapt your vision. First of all, the vision can change from time to time. We’re not in a static world so various factors come into play that cause the vision to be modified, it might be competitive factors, it might be technology, it might be economic factors, any number of things that might be outside of your control that requires you to be able to adapt.

If you’re functioning in an environment where you’re not adapting to all these changes that are taking place around you, then you can be in for a rude awakening.

Our vision has been modified over the course of time based on experience. In other words, a lot of times you have a vision of where you’re going, and then once you begin to experience certain things, you sort of modify that. Sometimes you become more aggressive. Sometimes you become less aggressive. Sometimes you just change your course of action. There’s a variety of reasons why it can change.

Make calculated decisions based on outside factors. As a general rule, they are gradual-type changes that are made; they aren’t radical changes. It’s more of an evolution than a revolution when it comes to change.

You have to weigh on facts, as well as other opinions, as well as your own personal gut feeling. All those kind of have to come into play.

If your team is really focused on the vision, they tend to not always be aware of changes that are going on around them. So, I think it’s important that you stay connected to the outside world, whether it be through professional associations, business associates, clients, prospects, competitors, any source of information that you can use.

Ask yourself poignant questions. First of all is, what sort of trends are taking place within your industry and also outside of your industry. What type of technological factors are coming into play that are changing the way people do business or the way people change their values. Obviously, economic and political factors can come into play. New competition that was not maybe apparent. Those are all factors. Globalization is a big factor, especially in our industry.

Balance staying focused on your vision with needing to adapt. You need to constantly evaluate your progress, and if you set goals and if you’re just meeting your goals or not meeting your goals or marginally meeting your goals, I think that is one definite signal that you need to sort of evaluate those goals. Either they’re realistic (or) you need to adapt in order to be more effective in realizing those goals.

A lot of it is sort of a gut feel. I don’t think you can ever get too complacent. Just because you’ve established a vision and goals doesn’t mean that you cannot modify those goals if trends, competitive factors, the economy, all of the things that come into play. You can’t do that in isolation, so you have to be constantly monitoring all of those factors to make sure that your vision and your goals are realistic and achievable.

Make sure your goals are realistic and achievable. (You have to evaluate your goals) every day. But you have to have large enough windows so you can really realistically do those kinds of evaluations. Just because you have a bad day or a bad week or a bad month doesn’t mean you scrap everything. Sometimes you just have to do a double-check to make sure everything is headed in the right direction and all the factors that you’ve used in establishing your goals are realistic and accurate.

You have to listen to the market. You have to listen to what your customers are telling you. You have to constantly evaluate your progress in terms of your successes and failures to determine if you’re winning business, why [or] if you’re losing business, why. Just make sure you understand all the factors that are in play to validate your plans.

How to reach: Information Control Corp., (614) 523-3070 or www.iccohio.com