Is there anything more damaging to a business than staying still? There are many stories of businesses that have not survived because they haven’t changed with the times. But there are also many positive stories of businesses that have done change well. In this article, we’re going to take a look at one of those businesses and pick out what we think are the 5 key learnings from their story and how we can apply this to how your business can improve how you do your reporting.
Here’s another trip down memory lane for those of you who are of a certain age. Do you remember the iconic Yellow Pages advert? We see a well-dressed, mature gentleman wandering in and out of bookshops looking for a book by J.R. Hartley but sadly no one has it. The gentleman turns to the ‘big yellow book’ and finally he finds his book. When asked what his name is, he replies, “my name, oh yes, it’s J.R. Hartley.”
The advert was released in 1983 and everyone had a copy of a Yellow Pages book in their home. They were delivered free to our doorstep in a cellophane bag every year and was a business listing for the local area.
Since the rise of the internet, the distribution of Yellow Pages book declined year after year. In September 2017, Yell, the publisher of Yellow Pages in the United Kingdom, announced that the business would be fully online from January 2019, ending the publication’s 51-year run. The last UK copies were posted out on 18 January 2019. (Source Wiki)
Yellow Pages had to react to the changing times and completely overhaul how they went to market. They had to move from being a print based offering to providing an online directory for businesses. A massive undertaking but one that had to be done if the business was going to survive.
This change would not have happened overnight. Yellow Pages Directors and managers would have been paying attention to the changing landscape. The Yellow Pages would change to an online directory, Yell.com which was launched in January 1996. 13 years before the business became fully digitised. 13 years of gradual change from print to online. A change in business model and how revenue would be generated. Many businesses would prefer to stick with what they knew – appearing as a line in the book. Whilst other businesses would be quick to catch on to the rising use of internet directories.
Had Yellow Pages not made the gradual shift to being an online directory or had they left it too late, another savvy business could easily have taken it’s place. Yell.com is no longer just a business listing site. They have recognised other opportunities to help local businesses other than a simple listing on the site. They offer digital marketing services, offer DIY websites and domain name purchases, as well as links with other online business like social media tools and website checkers. They also now offer a business app so that advertisers have full control of their account.
What can we learn from the Yellow Pages story?
Be proactive in an ever-evolving marketplace
This is one of the key takeaways. The world is always changing and technology is a large part of this. Yellow Pages had to shift from paper based to online to keep up with how the end user was finding the businesses they needed. And as more and more businesses went online, Yellow Pages had to do the same.
When we think about reporting methods in a business, it would have been the case that in 1984, the same time as the J.R. Hartley commercial, most businesses would have been using clipboards and a pen.
Today, anyone using a pen and paper or even a spreadsheet could be the equivalent of thumbing through a Yellow Pages directory.
If you are using paper or spreadsheet or even an old online reporting tool, do you need to think about how this is affecting your business? And those businesses or people that you work with? How can you make it easier to produce reports and make it even easier for people to receive and view reports? And how are you keeping up with changing times?
Not being afraid to embrace new technology
Which brings us on nicely to how Yellow Pages weren’t afraid to keep up with changing times by embracing new technology. As mentioned Yellow Pages launched Yell.com 13 years before they became fully digital. They transitioned and accepted that it would take time. They knew it would be a gradual shift to online and they would need to satisfy this shift.
Not being afraid to embrace new technology is the downfall of most organisations these days. Even something as simple as restaurants and takeaways being slow to respond to the shift to in-app ordering services like just-eat could affect their business.
In terms of businesses that survey, inspect and produce reports, not being afraid to embrace new technology could also be the difference between thriving or dying. End users (customers) are more tech savvy and will expect e-communications. If it’s not there it may raise a question mark over the professionalism of a business. In B2B supply chains, contracts might be won or lost based on how quickly and efficiently reports can be produced. Teams and internal customers will also benefit greatly from easy to read, detailed and professional reports. Instead of photocopies of tatty original paper reports or difficult to follow Excel or Word documents.
Not being afraid to implement change
Finally the over-riding factor in all of this – is not being afraid to make the jump and implement change.
The current pandemic has seen a lot of businesses embrace technology and do things differently in order to stay in business. Change has been forced upon us and not surprisingly we have adapted as we always do. What we can learn is that, in business, we have to be proactive in making changes. We cannot wait until we are forced to as (pandemics aside), what forces the changes will often be external influences. This me be, increased competition, changes to legislation, market changes or changes in technology, which Yell.com were proactive in addressing.
Have you reviewed your reporting processes recently? What is your competition doing and what benefits are they seeing because of it? Are you stuck doing the same old same old and if so what is the real reason you aren’t making changes and moving forward?
If you would like any help or advice on embracing technology and changing to a new reporting system, please get in touch with our UK based team today firstname.lastname@example.org