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8 min read

How small businesses can thrive with adaptive business models

I think we can agree that life has thrown us all a number of curve balls in recent years. We’ve all had to adapt to the unexpected, from staying safe at home to navigating the cost of living crisis (to name a few). We’ve all had to be flexible and agile in our responses in order to adapt to the ‘new normal’. To keep calm and carry on.

So, why are some of us hesitant to embrace flexibility and agility when it comes to business? It’s not as scary as some might think… In fact, an adaptive business model can not only help businesses survive but in fact, thrive.


Adaptive business models – what are the options?

An adaptive business strategy enables a business to work proactively on a continual basis to achieve long-term goals and quickly adjust those goals when necessary. This is achieved by identifying and quickly implementing short-term strategies and actions to achieve bigger picture goals.

Adaptive business models are those that are flexible and can adjust to changes in the market, customer preferences, or other external factors. There are several types of adaptive business models that small businesses can consider, including:

  • The Lean Startup model: This model involves launching a product or service quickly, testing it with a small group of customers, and then refining it based on their feedback. This approach allows businesses to test their ideas and make changes quickly, without wasting time or resources on products or services that don’t work.
  • Agile methodology: Agile methodology involves breaking down projects into smaller, more manageable tasks and completing them in short sprints. This approach enables businesses to be more responsive to changing customer needs and market conditions, while also improving collaboration and communication among team members.
  • Platform business model: A platform business model involves creating a marketplace or platform that connects buyers and sellers. This model allows businesses to scale quickly, as they can add more sellers or buyers to the platform as needed. It also enables businesses to respond quickly to changing market conditions, as they can adjust the platform to meet the needs of their customers.
  • Subscription-based model: Offer products or services on a subscription basis, which allows you to generate recurring revenue and build a loyal customer base. For example, a small business could offer a monthly subscription box for beauty products or a meal delivery service.
  • Online marketplace model: Leverage online marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy, or eBay to reach a wider audience and sell your products to customers across the globe.
  • Service-oriented model: Small businesses can focus on providing high-quality services to customers rather than selling products. This model allows you to tailor your services to meet the unique needs of each customer and build long-term relationships.
  • Agile manufacturing model: Use agile manufacturing techniques to quickly adapt to changes in demand or supply. This involves producing small batches of products on demand, rather than large quantities in advance.
  • Outsourcing model: Small businesses can outsource certain functions like customer service, marketing, or accounting to third-party service providers. This allows them to focus on their core competencies and reduce overhead costs.
  • Hybrid model: Small businesses can combine multiple business models to create a unique and adaptable model that meets their specific needs. For example, you could offer a subscription-based meal delivery service that also sells its products on an online marketplace.

While there are challenges to implementing adaptive business models, with careful planning and execution, small businesses can successfully navigate the transition and reap the benefits of these models.

Benefits of adaptive business models

There are several benefits to embracing adaptive business models, including:

  • Increased revenue: By being more responsive to changing market conditions and customer needs, businesses can increase revenue and grow their businesses more quickly.
  • Resilience: Adaptive business models are more resilient in the face of disruption, such as economic downturns or unexpected changes in the market. By being able to quickly adapt to changing circumstances, your business can continue to operate and even thrive during challenging times.
  • Innovation: Enabling your businesses to experiment with new products, services, and business models can lead to new opportunities for growth and innovation.
  • Customer-centricity: Adaptive business models are designed with the customer in mind and are focused on meeting their needs and preferences. By testing products or services with a small group of customers before launching them, you can ensure that you meet the needs of your target audience. This can help to improve the customer experience and increase customer loyalty.
  • Competitive advantage: By being able to quickly adapt to changing market conditions and customer needs, businesses with adaptive business models can gain a competitive advantage over their rivals. This advantage can lead to increased market share and profitability over time.
  • Reduced risk: By testing products or services with a small group of customers before launching them, businesses can reduce the risk of failure. This can help to save time and resources, while also improving the chances of success.


Tips for implementing adaptive business models

Implementation requires careful planning and execution. Here are some tips to help with successful implementation:

  • Start small: Implementation can be overwhelming, particularly if it involves significant changes to the business. Start with small changes, test them with a small group of customers or employees, and then refine as needed.
  • Embrace technology: Technology is a critical enabler of adaptive business models, providing the tools and resources needed to be flexible and agile. Embrace technology, invest in the right tools, and train employees to use them effectively.
  • Involve employees: Employees are often resistant to change, particularly if it involves significant changes to their roles or responsibilities. Involve employees in the process of implementing adaptive business models, communicate the benefits to them, and provide training and support as needed.
  • Measure and monitor: Adaptive business models require constant monitoring and evaluation to ensure that they are achieving the desired outcomes. Establish clear metrics and KPIs, monitor progress regularly, and make changes as needed

So, what does this mean if I already have a business plan in place?

While having a business plan can be helpful in providing a roadmap for your business, it’s not always necessary to adhere to it. In fact, many successful businesses have deviated from their original business plans as they learn more about their market, customers, and industry.

Business plans are typically created at the start of a business or when a major change or pivot is required. However, as a business evolves, it is important to be open to adjusting the plan and making changes based on new information or unexpected circumstances.

It’s important to note that having a business plan can still be valuable, even if you end up deviating from it. A well-crafted plan can help you stay focused on your long-term goals, identify potential challenges and risks, and help you communicate your vision and strategy to stakeholders like investors, employees, and customers.

Overall, the key to adopting a more adaptive business model is to be open to change, embrace new technologies and ideas, and always be willing to experiment and iterate to find the best solution for your business. Make time to regularly assess your business in order to make informed decisions and adapt to changes as they arise.

Don’t be put off by the unknown – do your research to see which adaptive business model would fit your business offering best. Change, whether we like it or not, is always around the corner in one form or another. So why not embrace a flexible and agile business structure that is prepared to pivot if required? With the right adaptive model in place, you’ll soon find your business has become more flexible and agile than a yoghurt pot on Blue Peter. And that’s saying something.


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