Where will your company be 125 years from now? Is that even a fair question to ask?

Contractors and business owners are rightfully more concerned with focusing on the immediate future and laying out company goals and initiatives for the next five, 10, or 20 years. Still, the long-term future is out there, and viability beyond the centennial mark is possible for any company, although it is not in any way, shape, or form going to be easy.

There’s an overabundance of factors working against sustained success and longevity for any business. Mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies, and dozens of other factors can stop a company in its tracks at any time. In fact, the average company is only destined to last 10 years, which means half of all business ventures aren’t even going to celebrate a decade of existence.

So, to stay alive and thrive for 125 years — an achievement Intermatic Inc. reached this year — is certainly an accomplishment.

Intermatic, which started out making register boxes for trolley cars, has constantly shifted gears and redefined itself since World War II. Today, the company delivers industrial controls and solutions to appliance manufacturers, facility managers, and homeowners.

Liz Jacobs, vice president of marketing for Intermatic, recently said on the NEWSMakers podcast that the company has stayed in business for so long for a multitude of reasons, but that it is essential to have the wisdom to understand and adapt to industry trends.

“The company has understood where market opportunities were going and created products that fulfilled those needs,” said Jacobs. As the company has grown, it’s also made sure to remain a close group of individuals, even as it spreads to places like Mexico, Hong Kong, Germany, and the U.K.

What happens if a company fails to understand and comprehend market opportunities? Look no further than how slow Blockbuster Video was in both respecting Netflix as competition and understanding the digital streaming marketplace. Blockbuster actually had an opportunity to buy Netflix for $50 million in the early 2000s but passed on the chance. Blockbuster is now a relic of a bygone era. I’ll bet your teenage children have no clue as to what Blockbuster even was.

Then, there are companies like RadioShack, which slowly faded into obscurity as larger, savvier electronics companies and big-box chains took over their marketplace and left the company chasing the competition instead of leading it.

“As a mid-size company, we’re a tight group of people with an emphasis on employee health,” said Jacobs. “We try to highlight the global nature of our company and showcase people who are running customer service in Germany, for instance. From a culture perspective, we have a small-town feel as an employee group, but we’re really a broad global organization.”

Not every company is going to expand into different continents, and most won’t even leave the defined boundaries of state or county lines, but staying abreast of emerging trends while treating employees with care and respect is a lesson that should be easy to follow.

Here at The NEWS, we detail industry trends with great frequency. Are you staying up to date with the latest happenings under the Internet of Things umbrella? How do you feel about sending direct mail to your customers? Are you in an area of the country where that practice is more viable than others? Are you ensuring technicians are receiving valuable customer service training?

As it stands, none of us can possibly have any idea what this industry will look like or where it will be in 125 years, but you can take incremental steps to stay in front of the competition, get out ahead of changes to the marketplace, and decide which trends to follow.

You can start by ensuring members of your team are attending tradeshows and looking to discover the latest technologies that manufacturers are offering. Make an effort to converse with contractors from across the country to see what new developments and trends are emerging in their coverage areas. Also, sit in on conferences and seminars that detail services or offerings you may not have considered previously.

Perhaps you will walk away with an interest in home-performance contracting or geothermal installations or maybe you’ll gain a better understanding of the current regulatory landscape surrounding HVAC. Whatever the case, it’s vitally important to know what is happening throughout the industry and stay ahead of the curve.

So, where will your company be in 125 years? Maybe it is a fair question to ask.

Publication date: 6/6/2016

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