Committing to Change: The Silver Bullet For Business Growth

By Joe Kneale

While attending a conference for one of our largest partners, Keynote Speaker Troy Hazard (, talked about change. His comments percolated some observations our team has made. As a result, I decided to provide a brief respite from our regularly scheduled internet marketing programming to share some thoughts about something that affects every business: CHANGE.

One of the aspects that I enjoy the most in my current station with ChoiceLocal is that I get to talk to a large array of Small Business Owners and General Managers who are working to solve an exponentially larger set of business problems. While each business has unique complexities, our team works hard to find the biggest problems that members of a given franchise or agent network are up against.

We start with an understanding of the problem and develop technologically advanced, user-friendly solutions to those issues. For most of our partners, “Job #1” is generating more customers – something we are very, very good at doing. However, in 2016 alone, we have developed new solutions to some other really big business problems:

  1. Recruiting New Employees – Our team harnesses the power of top job boards to bring high quality job candidates – but we don’t stop there. Working closely with partners, we have developed a set of processes and procedures for handling web candidates that takes advantage of simple web based technology that has increased the hiring rate by more than 400% for some partners!
  2. Managing Incoming Leads – At ChoiceLocal we measure our results in terms of the actual return on investment. We noticed an opportunity with many of our partners to improve our tracking AND to improve their processes and procedures for managing web leads (which need to be handled differently than word of mouth leads)! Our lead coding and follow-up system has provided a revolutionary amount of transparency to the marketing and sales customer journey for our partners.
  3. Re-Activating Cold Leads – By partnering with a world class, enterprise-grade technology company called Marketo, ChoiceLocal is now able to increase close rates of leads by 22% through automated email nurturing!

Aside from allowing me an opportunity to brag about some of the cool things our team has been working on, each item on the list above represents an initiative that can cause massive change in the operations of one of our partner’s businesses. As a rule, in order for the technology we deploy “to work,” operational change is not recommended – it is required!

After working with more than 100 new partners in 2016, I’ve had a unique vantage point to watch change happen (and sometimes, not happen) across a veritable sample of organizations. I’ve also been able to record the same benchmark metrics for these organizations so I can measure my team’s success in driving growth.

What is interesting about being able to run this kind of “semi-controlled experiment,” is that the correlation between business success and the big market factors you might be able to grab form census data for or a competitive analysis, are not as important as you might think. In fact, we’ve seen already large businesses in very competitive, rural markets grow 46% year over year while their peer, an owner in the same franchise system with seemingly every market advantage, struggled mightily.

In the beginning, it baffled me, it baffled our Account Team, it baffled our Technical Specialists. As this phenomenon continued to play out however, our team began noticing a trend. I’ll do my best to put it in words: The silver bullet for growth is not technology and it’s not mostly caused by market advantages; the silver bullet for growth seems to be a simple commitment to change.

The silver bullet for business growth seems to be a simple commitment to change.

Let me clarify a bit: When I say committing to change, I don’t mean making changes to the business for the sake of making change. Organizations need to test, and use data to understand when change is necessary and if a given change is truly benefitting the business. When I say committing to change, I also don’t mean making the occasional change when an outside actor (like ChoiceLocal) is making a case for change – while partners can help tremendously, the most successful businesses we work with have an existing engine for change. When I say committing to change, what I mean is committing, for the long haul to looking for, testing, and implementing changes in the business. Simple, right?

It turns out it’s anything but! Troy’s comments, and my own experience with our client base this year have really underscored just how difficult change can be, and at the same time how necessary it is for survival and growth.

Here are some questions to help understand if your team has made the commitment to change:

  1. Does your team have a metric that you use to measure your biggest business problem? You can’t know what to change if you’re not measuring.
  2. Before you make a change, do you define success criteria using a key metric to evaluate if the change was successful? If you can’t define success – you won’t know if you are moving in the right direction or not.
  3. Has your team made changes in process, procedure, or people that your team truly believes will make a difference in the metric you use to measure your biggest business problem? Getting started, and getting everyone on board is name of the game.
  4. Are the changes you try to execute in the organization executed to completion? Creating accountability and seeing things through is key.
  5. Does every member of the team feel safe suggesting and leading changes to processes and procedures? The people closest to the problem usually have the best input for finding the solution.

There is a lot of natural friction that prevents teams from making big, scary, meaningful changes. Being in the tech industry, where Google will change their algorithm at a moment’s notice, without announcement or recourse, our team is forced to constantly change our service delivery so that we can continue to drive the great, measured results, that we advertise. With that said, the more that I reflect on Troy’s comments, the more I realize there are a few areas of our own business could use a quick shake-up. No matter where you are in your business, the most important improvement you can make may just be overhauling the way your team is managing change itself!

About the Author:

jknealeJoe Kneale is the General Manager at ChoiceLocal. He is accountable for ensuring that every member of our team delivers great results and outstanding customer service! Joe is a technophile; he has a homebuilt CNC machine and 3d printer. In his free time, Joe enjoys spending time with his wife, playing with Arduino microcontrollers, music, and shooting sports.


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