They're called a "perfect storms" for a reason--the unlikely, uncommon combination of market conditions that permanently change business as we know it.
It's no surprise that so many fear them. They've been known to pull apart entire categories and take down giant corporations. Call it innovation, or disruption. Whatever moniker you want to use, market changes come whether we like it or not.
What's important to realize is that we have the choice of how to react. And, with a careful watch not only can we spot them before they hit, but time their arrival and take advantage of them for our gain.
Whether starting a new business, or guiding a 100-year old company, there are key signs that change is on the horizon.
Here are the six key signs that clued me in and led me to launch my business:
1. Your gut tells you something isn't quite right
Trusting your gut is a bit of a lost art in entrepreneurship today. If your antenna goes up, even if only a tiny bit, pay attention to it.
A great example of this can be seen in Elon Musk. Conventional wisdom, the space industry, and his friends said one thing, but he believed that the cost of space travel could be dramatically lowered to make space travel possible for everyday people.
He crunched the numbers for himself to see if he was right--and he was. SpaceX was born.
2. You see what's missing
Big players have been doing the same thing as they always have--and it's not quite working for consumers.
In my case, I saw a rise in health problems that many consumers were tracing back to chemicals and additives in their diets. That clued me into a likely need for the natural products we make at Simple Mills today.
You might also be able to see other signs of customer pain points from tangible costs (like lost revenue or productivity) to less tangible costs (like impacts to health or time spent with family).
3. You're surrounded by skeptics
Big players are skeptical of your idea for the wrong reasons.
You've dug ten layers deep into "why" and there still doesn't seem to be a good reason you're wrong. Dogma seems to drive the decisions "because it's always been done this way."
When the steam engine was invented, nobody believed those who said it'd replace the paddleboat. Guess who was right and who wasn't.
If nobody believes you, you might be onto something.
4. People are already cobbling together solutions
Look for signs that the pain is real, that consumers are pursuing time-consuming, expensive options rather than the conventionally available solutions.
Before I launched my business, consumers were cooking, buying different products online and using alternative flours to avoid traditional food products. I saw that this was a great deal of work--and that easier ways to eat natural foods might be in demand.
5. Key underlying metrics indicate you are right
For me, it was almond flour sales.
I started tracking almond flour sales in my local Whole Foods store. Nearly every time I went to the store, it was out.
It turned out it was the best selling product in grocery--a sign many consumers were looking for simpler ingredient, higher protein foods. This wasn't a small problem and demand was real.
Figure out what leading indicators might look like in your business. You'll also be able to see if it's a large enough problem to merit action.
6. You notice movement in the market
New companies forming, old barriers shaking, walls showing signs of cracking. Study and track these changes the minute you start to see them. These are often the very early hints of major shifts to come.
Don't forget that harnessing a market change can also mean running at it when it arrives, or even being the one who creates it. SpaceX went head on at the idea of space travel becoming affordable, just like Amazon (retail), Uber (transportation) and dozens of other companies have done in response to indications of change.
If you see the clouds forming in your business climate, don't panic, and don't run. Spotting the signs doesn't necessarily mean it's time to make a move right away.
But know you'll likely need to at some point, and start preparing for it. Do the homework, run the numbers, get suited up for what's coming.
You'll be ready to make a move long before it hits.