When is it time to change your strategy?

Growing up, one of my favorite relatives was Uncle Gord. He was an outgoing, fun-loving man who never failed to put a smile on my face.

Our families often rented side-by-side lakefront cottages for a week during the summer. Uncle Gord would always wake early and take a boat out on the lake for some quiet fishing.

I pestered him long enough that he eventually allowed me to join him. We would meet at the dock at sunrise and go fishing for a couple of hours.

Being a curious child, I would pepper him with questions. The biggest thing I was always trying to understand was the timing of when to give up on one spot and try fishing in a different part of the lake. 

To me, it seemed pretty random. We would fish in one area until Uncle Gord would announce that it was time to move on and try somewhere else.

He explained that each part of the lake looked the same on the surface but was very different in the water where the fish lived. Each part of the lake was a new opportunity to catch fish, and we would try one area until he decided it was time to move on.

Sometimes, we would only go to one area because the fish were biting, and we were landing as many as we wanted. But other times, we would move around the lake, trying different areas.

I was thinking of this life lesson recently when I had a phone call from a long-term client this week to discuss the strategy for one of his funeral homes. His main business was still doing great, but one location struggled to grow. 

We developed a new strategy for this location a few years ago, and he implemented everything as planned. As expected, the call volume was increasing, but unfortunately, the revenue per call was declining. As a result, the bottom line profits were suffering.

Growing a funeral home business is a lot like fishing in a lake, and strategies are like different parts of the lake. Sometimes, your first strategy works perfectly. And other times, you have to pull up your anchor, move to a new spot and try something different.

Which begs the question….when is it time to change to a new strategy?

Here are four situations in which you may want to consider changing your strategy.

#1 When the original conditions fundamentally change

A growth strategy is a game plan for pursuing a business opportunity. It is based on known facts about the opportunity, your business strengths, and the anticipated moves by your competition. But sometimes, there is a fundamental change in one of those three areas, and it’s time to reconsider your strategy.

For example, if your strategy is based on having the only crematory in town and your competitor installs one, the conditions have fundamentally changed. You can no longer claim to have the only crematory, so you need to give people another reason to choose your funeral home.

#2 When you’ve tried different baits

When you’re fishing, sometimes the problem isn’t a lack of fish; it’s that you’re using the wrong bait. In business, your bait is your marketing message and your offer.

Marketing is fundamentally a game of testing different combinations of messages and offers to see what works in your community. Therefore, you should never give up just because your first test didn’t work out.

However, if you’ve tried multiple combinations of messages and offers and nothing has worked, it might be time to move on to a new opportunity. Or, at least, it’s time to find someone to craft a better message/offer for you!

#3 When you have invested enough

Uncle Gord had two guidelines for when to return to the cottages; either we had caught a fish big enough for lunch, or his thermos of coffee was empty.

When you are following a business strategy, you should have clear guidelines for when you have invested enough time, effort, and money.

For example, if you launch a discount cremation business, you might want to say that you’ll invest no more than $100k and want it to break even within two years. If you don’t meet those criteria, it might be time to move on to other opportunities.

#4 When a better opportunity emerges

The lake we used to fish in had a dam and spillway at one end. Whenever they opened the spillway, we would immediately race to that part of the lake because we knew the fish would be biting.

Sometimes, you have a business growth strategy and are making progress. Then, suddenly, a new opportunity presents itself, and you have to decide whether you want to jump on it.

For example, one of my clients was planning to build a new funeral home when a competitor called and asked if he’d be interested in acquiring them instead. The price was right, and the competitor’s funeral home was in great shape, so he changed his strategy and took advantage of this new opportunity.

Transitioning from being a funeral home owner to a Funeral Business Builder rarely involves just one strategy. Instead, it involves creating and implementing strategic plans that address good business opportunities. 

Some plans will work out, and some won’t. But if you stick with it and keep trying new things, eventually, you’ll land your big fish!

Until next time



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