Change is basically every entrepreneurs' middle name. It is something they strive for as they seek solutions to problems and then export those solutions for monetary gain. They have to change their mindset, change their lives and sometimes change entire industries.

Yet, I have found that sometimes entrepreneurs themselves can be resistant to change within their own companies. Whether it is the need to change key employees, their business model, their product line, their sales channels or something else, entrepreneurs can fail to see a problem within their own enterprise and take the necessary action to change it.

I think this is mostly due to two different reasons:

  1. Entrepreneurs don't have a problem changing or adapting things that they like, so they have no problem changing themselves or changing an industry that they're really interested in. However, they may not be as willing to change the nuts and bolts elements of their companies that seems a lot more like work than passion.

  2. Entrepreneurs tend to see themselves as being on a mission, and anything that doesn't relate to their immediate mission is a distraction. A change that is born from necessity is often not something entrepreneurs see as serving their mission, but some niggling detail that is distracting from their greater calling.

Some changes that I've personally observed being difficult for entrepreneurs to make include:

  • Tempering assumptions about customers and how well they know their target market.

  • Scaling up during growth phases for the company.

  • Dealing with new team members who are not fitting in or have lost their drive after a certain period with the company.

  • Overestimating or underestimating technological or societal change and failing to adapt to it.

Fortunately for entrepreneurs, there are some tell-tale signs that they need to make changes in their companies that they can look out for and act on. Like these four signs:

1. You're making too many assumptions.

You may think you know your audience and how your marketing messages will come across to them, but there's no substitute for getting hard and fast numbers to look at and make decisions from.

Rather than assumptions, use a more scientific method with theories. The thing about theories is that, unlike assumptions, you don't take it for granted that they are correct. You start with something that you think is likely and then try to prove that you were either right or wrong about it via experimentation and measuring your results.

2. You've been holding onto a status quo for too long.

Your company doesn't always have to be growing, but you should beware if you've been in a holding pattern for too long. Even if your market share hasn't shrunk any in the past several years, that doesn't mean you should feel safe because it only takes one new competitor to usurp your position.

Growing and expanding is just as much about survival as it is about gunning for the No. 1 spot in your industry. Don't rest on your laurels. If you are comfortable, that means you are lagging behind.

3. You're relying on the same key contributors to your success for too long.

Similar to the last point, companies need new blood once in a while. If you have been relying on the same group of people for too long, things are bound to get stale. That's not to say you necessarily have to get rid of anyone, but it pays to bring in some new ideas by way of bringing in new people.

It could be through hiring, through contract work with freelancers or through consulting and brainstorming with peers, but new perspectives bring new ideas, which helps prevent your company from getting stagnant.

4. You've stopped paying attention to your industry.

It seems counterintuitive to say that a company, especially one at the top of a given industry, could possibly stop paying attention to it, but it happens. Everytime you witness a long-standing industry get "disrupted" by some young upstart that does things completely different, you're witnessing old companies not paying attention to their industries.

Something I personally like to do is to find the two or three most important magazines or publications related to the industries I'm in and read a few issues from three or four years ago and then compare them to current issues. I look at the trends that developed over the last few years, think about how they've affected my business, and try to predict where things will go next. Then I come up with some theories to test based on those predictions. If you don't mind a little homework, you should try it.

Change for the sake of change isn't necessarily good, but if you see the signs, it might be time to mix things up a bit. I call this my elevator theory. If you are not going up (ascending) you are going down (descending).