In business, there can sometimes be an element of complacency at senior level. People who are at the top do not always look at the external environment enough, and fail to notice the changing landscape. Firms like HMV and Kodak have discovered the severe consequences of this. If you are not flexible you will find it extremely difficult to survive.
It doesn't matter how successful a company is, there will always be new trends emerging that will affect them. It could be new technology, it could be the growing influence of social media as a marketing tool, or simply a shift in the economic climate. Either way, managers should be open to change; not just to survive but to move their business forward.
I am personally always on the lookout for any specific trends in the market and I do this on a regular basis. For example, healthcare is currently regarded as one of the fastest growing sectors in recruitment, particularly as there is an increase in the number of temporary staff being used. I recently launched a brand new recruitment company called Flex Staffing to operate specifically in this area.
I've been doing this for over three decades, and despite what some people may think, knowing what's happening in the market doesn't just have to be through looking at massive dossiers and reports. Simple networking and conversations with your industry peers are also hugely valuable tools.
Back when I was running my first business Alexander Mann, recruitment companies used to hire their own staff. But whenever I spoke to other CEOs within the industry, I realised that a lot of them were actually struggling to attract top talent. That was when I came across the idea of setting up a division that specifically supplied consultants to recruitment firms. This was pretty much unheard of at the time, but very soon, I created a model where I charged a fee for placing a recruitment consultant.
Of course, as well as staying up to speed with the market, you should always make a point of listening to your customers. Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, famously said 'There is only one boss, the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else'
The best businesses are the ones which really stay in tune with their customers' needs. These days there are so many tools to analyse results, and so many ways to interact with the people who buy your products or services, that there really is no excuse for failing to grasp what they are thinking. The needs and behaviour patterns of your customers can constantly change - and your business should adapt accordingly.
Finally, managers should always look to keep the organisation fresh by making key hires. In any industry, the people in charge surround themselves with experts. Even if you look at a sports team for example, you will see that managers usually have a range of support staff such as coaches, nutritionists and sports scientists. They will take their opinions on board and rightly so.
The same principle applies in business. It is very rare for one person to be a genius in all the necessary departments, so having a good team with an assortment of skills is crucial.
The world of business has seen rapid changes over the years and this is sure to continue. Those who are brave enough to embrace change are far more likely to be successful than those who rest on their laurels.
Follow James Caan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jamescaan