Strategic change means changing the clients and markets you pursue and changing the way you compete. Strategic change requires research, planning and adaptability.
In the case of strategic change, you are looking to change your business model. If you do not need to change your business model, if you just need to work your business model better, then you don't need strategic change.
As business coaches, we almost always challenge our new clients' business models. That doesn't mean we always believe they need to be changed. We have just learned that more often than not, contractors adhere to broken business models.
Make sure you give thorough and legitimate consideration to your existing business model prior to deciding the exact way you want your business to run.
How to drive change
There are three common approaches for driving change within a business.
Approach #1: the owner drives the change.
Approach #2: the owner retains an outside change agent (i.e. coach or consultant).
Approach #3: the owner hires someone and empowers her or him to change the company.
Approach number one is the most commonly used technique - and typically the least successful. The challenge boils down to: the person who put the business in its current position typically is not well equipped by skill or reputation to successfully drive significant positive change.
Shoving aside the skill piece, as skills can be developed, the core problem is managerial and leadership reputation. If you've spent years reinforcing your company's current culture, few employees will believe your commitment when you strive to overhaul it. Basically, you will have a company full of Doubting Thomases. About the only way to overcome that efficiently is to turn over a large part of the staff. As that is probably something you're going to have to do anyway, don't reject that solution out of hand.
Approach number two is the most reliable approach. Outside change agents take the heat off of you. They provide great cover for the unpleasant staffing and performance management decisions that will need to be made. Reputable outsiders know exactly what needs to be done and how to get it done. Your role is to communicate your full endorsement of the new direction and to work with the coach to ensure his efforts are perfectly aligned to your goals and objectives.
Approach number three is the most effective approach if you can find the right person to hire. An internal employee carries greater credibility regarding your commitment to the new direction. Bringing in a high paid team member signals that you are putting your money where your mouth is. It shows that you're shoving all of your chips into the pot.
Get it right the first time
Each unsuccessful attempt to drive change will make the next one more difficult. People will either distrust your commitment or distrust your abilities. The grapevine will be saying "Here we go again." The staff will naturally assume that if they resist the change long enough it will fade away into the sunset, and they will soon be able to return to business as usual.
If you are dissatisfied with the way your business is running, you need to implement change. When you do, you need to manage the change aggressively and without deviation from the chosen path.