The example of the wagon wheel maker two years before Henry Ford’s Model T disrupted the world stands as an enduring example today: If you saw yourself as a wagon wheel maker, you became obsolete; if you saw yourself as being in the transportation business, you started building rubber pneumatic tires and thrived.

But the examples don’t end there. The Walt Disney Co. could have remained a cartoon and amusement park enterprise. Instead, Disney executives saw themselves as being in the family entertainment business. By realizing and adapting to the changing ways people entertain themselves, they are now only limited by their imagination, not by any products or services.

If there is something that most companies will face at some point, it is disruption. It is the nature of business. And the effective response – or better yet, proactive initiative – taken to address that disruption head-on separates companies that will survive from the rest of the herd. 

CDS Global Inc., like many companies, has learned from these and other success stories. From serving the printed magazine industry, an industry that is among the most disrupted in today’s marketplace, we now enable digital communication and commerce for publishers. To further build our client base through the expertise developed by being a media industry leader, we have diversified into working with charitable organizations, utility companies, membership groups and others. 

In five steps, companies in nearly any industry can begin the necessary journey to not only survive, but to thrive during times of disruption. 
1. Identify what you do great.  

Don’t pigeonhole your products or services by what you have always done or the industries you have always served. More often than not, your capabilities are transferable and can solve problems for those outside your traditional customer base. Step back and determine what you are really great at and how those skills can benefit nontraditional focus areas.

2. Truly understand your best asset: your employees.  

Even more important than what you do or the products you offer are the people who make it all happen. Knowledgeable, flexible, engaged employees deliver solid work and are what make great companies great. Recognize the people-power that makes you successful. Your customers will notice a difference.

3. We are all media companies. 

In this age of immediate and expansive communication, we are all in the media business. What and how we communicate is as important as expensive modern technology and groundbreaking products. Share your expertise through all types of content and across channels.

4. Culture trumps strategy.  

In today’s disrupted, consumer-driven world, who you are is more important than what you do. What your company does may change, but if your culture is open, inquisitive, urgent, responsive and honest, you can conquer any disruption.

5. Technology is oxygen – indispensable and everywhere. 

The strongest driver of our connected culture is technology. The always-on consumer should drive everything you do. We must all be technology-minded to reach our customers. 

Five simple steps. Essential whether you are a Silicon Prairie startup or a multinational company. Let this disruptive age power, rather than limit, your future success.