13 Early Warning Signs That Your Business Strategy Must Change

June 29, 2015
Yeah, we know you track financials, and you should. But you'll find the earliest warning signs that your business needs to change by asking these questions.

Anticipating what the future will bring is hard for all of us. To say the least, seeing challenging things on the horizon can be unsettling. We tend to ignore these signs until—and even sometimes after—they land on our doorstep.

Though change can be fast, it isn’t constant. And yet the business world is a moving target, and waiting is not an option.

Being agile is your only hope.

Still, many business owners play the waiting game; they react to changes in the business rather than seek out signs of needed change. They stay in their comfort zone. No doubt, this has its advantages like saving “energy.” However, nobody ever created a successful future by saving resources.

... successful company owners—those who actively search for early warning signs that it's time for change—regularly ask themselves the following simple questions..."

Too often, business leaders depend on the financials to warn of changes ahead. However, financials are historical data; by the time the need for change is evident in the financials, it's likely too late.

Early warning signs must be sought somewhere else.

In my experience, successful company owners—those who actively search for early warning signs that it's time for change—regularly ask themselves the following simple questions:

  • Is my sales team finding that they're meeting with new customers after the competitors already have?
  • Is my company still attracting new highly motivated employees?
  • Is my customer service truly serving the customer? I'll test it myself!
  • Are solutions to problems similar to each other, or are we enthusiastically embracing and implementing totally new ideas?
  • Is my company's customer base shrinking or growing while sales are growing?
  • How many of my registered customers are regularly buying?
  • Is the competition beating my company in terms of lead times?
  • Is my company answering customer RFQs fast enough?
  • How many RFQs are not even answered?
  • Can my company handle large RFQs in a reasonable amount of time?
  • Do my employees still suggest improvement ideas, or are they just doing their job?
  • If needed, do my employees voluntarily work overtime?
  • Does my company collaborate in our customers' new product development?
  • Is my main customer’s competitor much more successful than my customer is?
  • Does it appear as if it is going to stay this way?
  • Is the big customer taking over the small one? What consequences could this have on my business?
  • Is my management running me or am I running the company? Am I working on unique and groundbreaking projects?


These questions will lead to further questions, which should force you to proactively think about the need for a strategic or tactical change. Combined with solid financials, such probing will not only reveal a need for change, but also will inform the type of change you need to implement.

Don’t let the need for change hit you from behind. Stay prepared by seeking out the signs and symptoms that forewarn you. Doing so will put you on a path to successfully--and proactively--make the necessary changes ahead of the competition.

About the Author

R. Paul Vuolle | CEO

R. Paul Vuolle, CEO of Bellevue SME Advisors GmbH in Switzerland and Germany, works actively with small and medium (SME) size manufacturing companies in Europe in SCM/Outsourcing, logistics, turnaround and restructuring, market expansion, as well as succession planning and financing. He also frequently supports technology start- ups in building up their business. He is the author of Lead Now, Manage Later: The Straight Shooter's Guide to Business Success.

Paul has over 20 years operational industry experience in engineering, electronics, industrial automation, building automation, investment goods like electrical drives, automatic test & measurement systems, HV Transformer production systems. During his career he has worked in manufacturing industries in supply chain management, outsourcing, logistics, production, R&D and successfully selling to international large key accounts. Paul has also run a sizeable amount of M&A transactions in numerous countries around the world.

He has built up his experience working in various leadership positions and functions in large corporations, such as ABB, and having executive positions in medium-size family companies and as a technology entrepreneur.

Paul is MSc. E.E. from Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich as well as BSc.E.E. from Helsinki Institute of Technology.

Paul is a long time member of IEEE and of its Industrial Applications Society.

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