Netflix shifted from DVDs to streaming. Nokia shifted from selling cellphones to selling network devices. McDonald's streamlined management into four international segments while re-franchising thousands of restaurants.

Restructuring a business can create tension and turmoil and require significant time and money to execute. But sometimes that's exactly what your small business needs to do to ensure future success -- especially when you need to consolidate successful initiatives and work on new initiatives.

And when you need to keep your best employees motivated, engaged, and challenged.

At LogoMix, we restructured several times as our business grew. Some of those reorganizations didn't work out and we needed to reverse course. But most of them did.

Here's how to know when it's time to restructure your small business:

The Right People in the Wrong Seats

Getting the right people on the bus is critical -- but so is getting the right people in the right seats.

Maybe you made hiring decisions based solely on credentials and experience. But more likely you looked for people with the right attitude: people who not only learn new things quickly but also love to learn new things.

So what happens when what you hired an employee to do is no longer what your business needs? Easy: move them to the right seat on the bus.

Granted, they may not know everything they need to succeed in their new role, but that's okay. People who are adaptable and eager to learn will quickly thrive.

And they'll enjoy the opportunity to further develop their skills and careers (to many employees, the opportunity to learn and grow -- and to feel a true sense of purpose and meaning -- can be just as important a factor in job satisfaction as pay and benefits).

Customer Needs Have Changed

Early on, many startups -- even tech-based startups -- need to spend significant time servicing customers: Helping them navigate your product offerings, helping them install, use, or maintain your products or services, answering their questions, that's especially true when you launch with a minimum viable product.

In fact, you're eager to spend time talking to new customers because their feedback helps you improve and refine your products and services.

But at some point, how you serve customers might change. Automation may streamline on-boarding. Videos, FAQs, and other information may dramatically reduce the need for one-on-one communication. And other needs -- new needs -- might surface.

The best way to build long-term customer relationships is to provide outstanding service. Use metrics like churn rate, return rates, service calls, etc. to identify changes in customer needs. Then talk to your customers to find out what matters most to them.

And then restructure your business -- not just your customer service function, but other areas like operations and fulfillment -- to ensure you aren't providing the service you want to provide, but the service your customers want and need.

You're Ready to Grow

While it sounds counterintuitive, sometimes it makes sense not to grow your business, at least over the short term. 

But at other times you not only want to grow, you need to grow: To capture economies of scale, to ward off new competitors, to attract investors, etc.

Wanting to grow isn't enough, though. Sure, you could spend more on advertising, but typically that kind of growth is incremental (and it comes with significant cost).

For most small businesses, the best way to grow is to free up existing employees to work on new initiatives that will create new revenue streams. That means -- since for cost reasons, simply hiring a number of new employees is probably not an option -- restructuring your business.

Which actually creates opportunities on multiple levels. Shifting an employee from leading customer service to developing a new product naturally creates an opportunity for another employee to take on the customer service role. And that may create an opportunity for another employee to take on that person's role. One move can create a ripple effect that re-energizes and re-engages a number of other people.

And the benefits of that may even outweigh the benefits of developing a new product or service.

Great small business employees love to adapt to shifting priorities. They love to learn new skills. They love to feel they're part of a team with a real mission.

And that what they do matters.

Restructuring your business can help them remember why they wanted to work for a startup in the first place.

And keep them motivated to take your business -- and themselves -- to even greater heights.

Published on: Feb 26, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.