Innovative. Nimble. High energy. Opportunity – focused.
Stuck. Ponderous. Tired. “Hanging in there” – focused.
Which set of the above best describes your business? Which would your employees use to describe it? Prospective investors? Your family?
Or really pulling back the facade, which set are reflected in your financial results? Those of a fast-growing, profitable company? Or one with slow to no revenue growth and profits non-existent and / or stubbornly low?
Yes, the tough reality in developed economies with slow overall economic growth rates is that most businesses don’t grow all that fast nor profitably and more to the point, don’t do so anyway near as much as their owners think they should be doing.
“Think they should be doing” is interesting, isn’t it?
Being the congenital optimists that they are, entrepreneurs and business owners truly believe in spite of all of the evidence – from the actual historical results of their business, from the meager growth rates in their industries, from the economy as a whole – that somehow/someway their businesses will be the exception and soon start growing very fast and very profitably.
While this optimism can be endearing, it is just delusion to think this when it is not backed up with actually doing different things so as to effect a different result.
This is because almost always those different things needing to be done are either risky, filled with uncertainty as to whether they will actually work out and / or identity – challenging, requiring us to be different kinds of managers and workers than we have been in the past.
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As I have written before, risk is the “unsaid” four letter word in business. Contrary to popular belief, most entrepreneurs and business owners are risk –averse, personally conservative and normally preferring of maintaining a certain business comfort versus really taking the bigger risks necessary to drive growth like:
- Investing the time and resources to properly raise growth capital – developing a professional business plan, running a comprehensive investor promotion strategy, etc.
- Letting go of okay performers and recruiting superstars that will challenge the status quo and ownership to “walk the walk” of its growth optimism.
- Truly committing to “the new” – new products, new services, new markets, new distribution channels, and standing firm (with time and money), when the first reaction of the market to “new” is apathy and disinterest
And doing (and sticking with) risky things require us to evolve our identities and become different kinds of managers and workers than we have been in the past, fighting through our fears of loss and our desires for security, and letting go of our notions of what a business should look like and what our role in it should be.
These include coming to terms with and adjusting to powerful and accelerating business themes like globalization (how can we make it work for our business and not threaten it), virtualization (how can we lead geographically diverse teams to peak performance), and organization design (what functions of our business make the most modern sense to do internally and which should be outsourced to partners, service providers, software platforms, etc.)
Sure, taking risks and changing who we fundamentally are and what we believe is difficult, especially for those who lead businesses that are moderately successful and have something to lose.
But the alternative is far worse – believing the future will be better than the past but not taking any real steps to make it so.
This is the land of pretending, of dilettantes.
But when we walk the walk – taking the risks and doing the work to evolve ourselves, we become something very important and very admirable.
A business man or woman of substance, vision, and guts.
Exactly what every business needs and wants.