So, you know it’s time to make a change.  But into what? Often, a stopgap response to the failure (or torpor) of your initial venture will lead you in the right direction. But it’s more likely that the next phase of your business will stem from research and consultation. Your advisors are likely to have some ideas. You can look at what your competitors are doing, then replicate or improve upon their strategies. Or you can check in with your clients.

Michael De Monte is fond of reviewing comments on social media to take the pulse of what customers want. He believes you must pay attention to the zeitgeist if you want to meet its needs. De Monte’s company, Toronto-based ScribbleLive (No. 11), started with a web-based publishing platform and now is adding syndication services in the hope of targeting a broader clientele. “The question becomes how your business is going to adapt to reach a new community, or to continue to reach a changing community,” he says.

Buytopia.ca has a more direct approach to soliciting client suggestions. “We’ll go to our customer list, pick up the phone and spend a few hours calling people,” explains Romanow. “Sometimes, they’ll give us an extraordinary amount of insight into what they’d really like.” In fact, such feedback led to Buytopia’s latest project: a couponing app called SnapSaves.

Once you’ve determined your new direction, it’s vital to keep the change from disrupting the business you’ve built to date. First off, keep costs low. Thanks to cloud computing, shared office spaces, contract staff and makerspaces, it’s easier than ever to launch with minimal overhead—and to relaunch with minimal pain.

Second, ensure you have enough cash to survive the transition. That can mean phasing out the old model while introducing the new one, or tapping into reserves.

Third, don’t keep key stakeholders—staff, investors and/or clients—in the dark. If the change is going to affect them, they deserve to know promptly. Besides, as several HOT 50 CEOs have found, if something’s up, those involved tend to suspect that.

Finally, don’t let your change define you. The prevailing motivations in business should be to grow sales profitably and build personal net worth, says Dennis: “If you base your decisions on pride and ego, it may not be in the best interest of the business. It’s a dangerous motivation.”

Instead, do as Clarke does and maintain perspective. “In climbing, you’ll have a route in mind,” he says. “But once you get there, you get new information about things you can’t control or predict—maybe about the snowpack or the weather. The climbers who succeed—and survive—are the ones who take that information in and make adjustments to their course, even though it’ll prevent them from reaching their original goal.

“They haven’t failed, compromised their integrity or sold out,” Clarke concludes. “They’ve just responded smartly to the situation in which they found themselves.”

It’s easier to find expert advisors than you think. And doing so can be invaluable. Read: 6 Advisors Any Startup Can Tap

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