I recently heard a statistic that blew my mind. There are approximately 400 PR agencies in Sydney alone, and in the next 5 years, of those, 10% will thrive, 40% will struggle, and 50% will DISAPPEAR.

While these stats refer to the PR Industry, with digital disruption turning the business environment on its head and driving change at 200 miles an hour, I would suspect that these figures also apply to many other fields at the moment.

And nothing churns a business leader’s stomach more than hearing that their industry is changing so quickly, that their company faces a serious threat if it doesn’t start evolving — NOW.

Clearly, with the media landscape changing rapidly due to digital advances, we were already well aware that we had to make some changes, but we were always looking inwardly for inspiration.

After hearing this, I started looking at things quite differently. What if the changes we wanted to make were actually not what the market wanted?

So, for our annual business planning and strategy day, I embarked on a journey of having a coffee a day with both current and past clients, as well as our team, to get their feedback and thoughts, and this is what I learned:

  1. Your clients will be one of your the best sources of innovation. Ultimately, they know what they want to see from their service provider.
  2. You were definitely barking up the wrong tree in some respects. What you thought you needed to change, may not add any value at all, or put simply — clients were happy with your service, so why reinvent the wheel? Go reinvent the engine. Much more important.
  3. There are hidden talents and desires within your own team, and if you don’t tease these out, you’ll miss out on nurturing your next star and aligning your clients’ needs with skill sets that already exist right in your own backyard.
  4. Do not be scared of client feedback, it’s the only way you will face issues head on and understand exactly where you can improve going forward.
  5. Your service is just one of the 1001 things on your client’s plate. Understand where you fit in their bigger picture, what their pain points are, and how you might make their life easier in future and this will drive your evolution.
  6. Breathe. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say. You have built your reputation on strong service, results, and ethics. This will carry you through a time of change… as long as those changes are made in a timely manner.

While we catch up with our clients fortnightly to discuss progress, recent wins, next steps, and to provide them with a platform to air any day-to-day concerns they may have, I believe that bigger picture conversations on customer feedback and direction should happen at least once every three-to-six months for the very reasons I have outlined above.

In short, that $3.50 coffee will be the best investment you could ever make in your business and where it should go next… in consultation with the people who matter most — your clients. And hopefully will ensure that you don’t end up in that bottom 50%.