Business Drift

Business Drift

“Business Drift” is a perpetual problem with any business, big or small, in any industry.  In the food and distillery industry it is called “Flavor Drift”.  In business, “Drift” is the act of slowly drifting away from the core business.  This can either be intentional or unintentional.


Businesses that avoid “Drift” are emphatic about running and focusing their business the same year over year, especially when it comes to customer service and business metrics.  Restaurants and distillers do the same by providing the same dishes and taste to a distilled product year over year.  In both cases the end customer knows what to expect and what they are purchasing.  Avoiding “Business Drift” gives both the owner(s) and managers and customers the same expectation of how the business is run.  The owner(s) and managers know how to manage their business and by what metrics.  While customers know what to expect of the product they are purchasing.


There is “Controlled Business Drift”, which is inherent in well established businesses, with new and old customers looking for changes or deviations to the product line.  Businesses need to stay up with competitive changes in their industry, a restaurant introduces a new menu item or a seasonal menu.  The key to “Controlled Business Drift” is to avoid too many changes or chasing novelty types of changes to the business’s product line and customer service.   “Controlled Business Drift” takes time to master and can be of great benefit to a business, but can hurt a business over time if managed incorrectly or monitored poorly.  Prime examples of “Controlled Business Drift” are fast food chains that have a limited time offering of a new sandwich, but always have their core menu items or appliance companies that offer different colored appliances (we have all seen the avocado or pink bathtubs, toilets and sinks), but the business always makes white appliances.


The worst example of poor “Controlled Business Drift” maybe Schlitz beer.  Schlitz was once the largest producer of beer in the US.  In the late 1960’s, Schlitz’s owner and management started making a series of changes to the beer’s recipe, changing ingredients and the brewing process.  The beer’s flavor changed, the quality declined and shelf life became shorter.  All these changes caused consumers to start drinking different brands of beer, resulting in Schlitz selling to Stroh’s.  An interesting point to the Schlitz example of poor “Controlled Business Drift” is no one documented the original recipe of Schlitz beer, so there was no starting point to return too.


A common type of “Business Drift” is when the owner(s) or Senior level management become absentee owner(s) or manager(s), while delegating or more often abdicating the day to day running of the business to employees that have no concept of how to run the core business.  The business begins to “Drift” aimlessly and become disconnected from its customers and by the time owner(s) or Senior level managers realize what has happened and become re-engaged with the business it is often too late.


The best way to control “Business Drift” is to have a strategic plan, with goals and objectives for the business.  A good strategic plan will always have a starting point and focuses the business on the future thus avoiding unintentionally “Business Drift” from the business’s core objectives.


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