The fear of every small business owner is change. If you've successfully carved out a niche for yourself, you fear that that niche is unstable. Whether it's an Amazon/Target-like bully coming in and stealing you lunch, a competitor figuring out how to replicate your process and offering it cheaper, or that your customers tastes simple shift, nothing feels secure.
And that is 100 percent true. But small businesses need not feel like the only ones fearing such shifts. Look at Yahoo!, Kodak or Barnes and Noble — companies that dominated their billion-dollar industries only to see it all crumble in just a few quarters. Change affects all businesses.
Our first thought is to fight change. To try and keep control of the niche we've built, to deny the shifts that might render it worthless. That's is, of course, like trying to stop the tides. So quit it. Get on board with change.
Change is subjective. What looks like a Titanic-killing iceberg to you is just "nature" to someone not in its path. As the owner of the small business, you need to shift thinking from "Woe is me! I am about to be destroyed" and to one of "Well, I was smart enough to find this niche, so I should be able to find the next one."
Change is an opportunity for the small business owner to grow, lower operational costs, find new customers, or simply thrive. In the wake of that iceberg, water is more turbulent, colder and possibly filled with the passengers from other Titanics.
Your unique position is the one you have with your customers: Ask them what they want, how this change has affected them, how they plan on making changes of their own. Your connection to your customers will allow you to see where they are going and it will be your job to be there when they arrive.
The fear is you are a one-trick pony, that you lucked into your niche and don't know how to replicate your success. Here's a secret: Owning a small business is incredibly hard work. Even if you did luck into your niche you worked like crazy to take advantage of that luck. A hundred people saw the same niche as you, but you were the one to do anything about it. Trust in your work ethic. Even if the new niche is obvious, trust in your ability to work hard to take advantage of it and build a new niche.
For better or worse, adapting to change is the real work of any business owner. The building, buying, selling and managing part (the part you thought was "the work") is just the care and feeding. The work is thinking about the next wave of change and managing your own fear of change. That's what makes your business "work."
James Ellis is a Google Analytics-certified digital strategist who has helped non-profits, state governments, small businesses and multi-national firms get smarter about doing business online. He used to be the first @BuckyBadger, which means he can type with big fuzzy paws. You can get in touch with James at saltlab.com to tell him how many ways he's wrong.