That’s How You Do Things. But Why?

“This is the way we’ve always done it,” is a saying that you hear more at big companies than small ones. But, the truth is, to some degree, all companies (and most industries) are guilty of doing things based on tradition, past practice, and comfort with the familiar. Unfortunately those companies are typically the ones that get blindsided by a more adept and customer-facing competitor.

Like many new businesses, ZocDoc, started with solving a problem for consumers: getting an appointment with a doctor who takes your insurance, in a reasonable amount of time. It also solves a problem for doctors, whose office time is frequently underutilized due to last-minute cancellations and an archaic appointment system. After reading ZocDoc’s story, you will likely think, “Wow, that was obvious. Why didn’t I think of that?” But remember, even if you had thought of that, you would then have had the challenge of getting two groups of people to adapt: patients (not too hard) and doctors (really, really hard).

Unlike many new businesses, ZocDoc is mining a multi-billion-dollar opportunity. But you don’t have to be a technology company to uncover and take advantage of inefficiencies and outdated practices that exist in your industry. Here are a few ways to think about how to improve the way you run your business:

  1. Ask your customers. Start with open-ended questions (e.g., “With respect to doing business with us, what would you like to see change?”) Then just let them talk.
  2. If you were starting the business today with a clean slate, what would you do differently?
  3. Ask your team what they would like to see done differently. In my experience, the best responses come from those recently hired.

Remember, it’s your business. You can make any change you want.