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Agility Helps SMBs Compete, Thrive In Any Economy

Written by Ken Gaebler
Published: 12/27/2011

Business expert identifies agility as a core competency for businesses striving to compete in today's economy.

Without agility, companies can't compete in the today's turbulent economy.

Agility Helps SMBs Compete

Or at least that's the opinion of Mike Richardson, a former corporate manager author of Wheel$pin: The Agile Executive's Manifesto (www.mydrivingseat.com). According to Richardson, competitive prowess hinges on agility, which he defines as the ability to succeed in nearly any economic environment.

"Everyone in the business press today seems to write endlessly about the challenges of the current economy without acknowledging the fact there are companies that are doing quite well, thank you, despite the economic downturn," Richardson says. "There are some companies and executives that don't rely on a healthy economy to make money. In fact, there are a few who simply rise to the occasion. That's what being agile in business is all about."

The need for agility is particularly acute for small businesses. In many cases, SMBs can leverage the ability to pivot on a dime as a competitive advantage, outperforming larger companies where it takes longer to implement change effectively.

To drive his point home, Richardson references three companies that excel in the area of agility and serve as models for entrepreneurs interested in creating more agile companies.

Apple Corporation

Steve Jobs was a master at creating an agile company culture. Althoug Apple's early operating system was arguably mimicked by Microsoft, setting the standard for PC computing, Apple intentionally decided to excel in areas where the competition was doing a mediocre job, establishing itself as a dominant force in graphics and publishing. Ultimately, Jobs led Apple to revolutionize the music and mobile industries with iTunes, iPods and iPhones before transforming the world of PCs once again with the iPad. According to Richardson, Apple never met a storm it didn't weather or an industry it couldn't change.

Ford Motors

Ford turned an important corner following the auto industry bailout, essentially taking over the industry during the rebound. Following the loss of the top sales to Toyota and a near bankruptcy, Ford leveraged new vehicle models and a new strategy, generating a level of profitability that allowed them to quickly pay back its government loan in full. Toyota's million car recall provided an opportunity that Ford deftly exploited, recapturing the top spot and proving that agility isn't just about dodging bullets -- it's also about coming back after a bullet hits you squarely in the chest.

Yahoo!

Yahoo experienced a rough ride in the media as the company's online presence fell to Google. For years, the rumors have had Yahoo! up for sale, but unable to attract serious interest from buyers. Now Yahoo! is back in the headlines with a content deal with ABC News and the announcement of exclusive, scripted episodic shows that will drive Yahoo! Screen, the company's entertainment platform. These moves have generated talk of renewed interest in the company from Microsoft and demonstrate Yahoo's ability to create new value by responding to current market opportunities.

"These are companies who have faced opportunity and adversity, not with panic, but with poise," Richardson added. "They deserve to be recognized not only for what they've done, but also to be used as an example of what all American corporations should strive to become. Agile."

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