Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

Recently a strange man tried to get my attention.

He wasn’t weird strange, just stranger strange. Like who the heck are you?

Then suddenly I realized that I knew him well. He was a good friend from days long gone. However, he didn’t look as I remembered him. That’s not surprising. My mental picture was 30 years out of date.

Life’s like that. We carry around mental pictures of how we think things are. We cling to guidelines, rules and knowledge taught to us decades ago. We see our children, parents and even our businesses through outdated prisms.

In business, we’re big on change. We talk change. We implement change. But often we neglect, ignore or don’t recognize the real changes taking place over time. We’re so caught up with keeping up that we put the basics on the back burner. I’m talking about business plans.

Do you have a business plan? Many businesses don’t. That’s a mistake.

It’s equally risky to do business following a plan that hasn’t been updated in years. If you don’t have an up-to-date business plan, you’re trying to function with old pictures and yesterday’s information. You are running the risk of not being recognized.

Parents are prone to do that. As our children grow to be adults, we keep them in our minds as our babies. When those mental image are applied to current circumstances, parent-child ( young adult) communication may not be as effective as it could be. The same is true when businesses get stuck in a time warp, when they continue to see their customer/ client base through the same lens that they’ve been using for years.

Successful businesses evolve. So, too, do customer bases and target audiences. If you think your customers and clients want the same products and services that they’ve been getting, you may be right. You also may be missing opportunities. Cover all bases by dusting off your business plan and revising it to incorporate current demographics and technologies.

Start by confirming that there’s still a strong desire for all your products/services. What could you be offering that you don’t? What are you doing that may no longer be relevant? How can you best communicate with your target audiences? What motivates potential buyers? How might you generate more attention and sales? Are your competitors getting the jump on you in any way? Are you planning for what’s coming next? Are you using new technologies effectively or are you overly focused on technologies at the expense of interpersonal communication? What’s the buzz among your current customers/clients? Who comprises your new target audiences? What are the best ways to reach them?

Getting solid answers to all the questions requires candid self-examination and research. Focus groups and surveys can help. It isn’t easy but it’s well worth the effort. You will gain new insights into who wants what. You’ll have new knowledge of when and how to use which technologies. You’ll have new visions and new information to revitalize your business plan, new goals to achieve, new opportunities to enhance customer/client loyalty, new strategies for bringing new business through your doors.

I’m working hard to cope with changes in businesses and people around me. Pragmatically, I accept that my son is now a man. Mentally, I’ve updated his image . And when next I see that man who was a stranger, I’ll instantly recognize him. His new picture is filed away in my brain.

Happy Labor Day!

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
Visit www.comm-concepts.com or call 303-651-6612.

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