You Can't Manage Today's Business Through Yesterday's Eyes!
We are all creatures of habit; entrepreneurs, especially. Hey, if it worked yesterday, it will work today...and tomorrow! If it ain't broke, don't fix it! We get comfortable; complacent with status quo. Or, we get stuck in the past, reminiscing and re-living "the good old days."
While I'm not a proponent of change for change's sake, where you're going can't just be driven by where you've been, if you want to grow. What got you here, won't necessarily get you there. You can't manage today's (or tomorrow's) business through yesterday's eyes. In this day and age, technology, especially, has ensured that few things remain the same for very long, whether that be environment, markets or even customer requirements. How you found and satisfied customers yesterday, does not predict how you can do it, as effectively, tomorrow.
Many small businesses rest on the laurels and successes of the past and not being cognizant enough of the changes that are going on around them, both externally and internally. Worse, though, they stagnate; failing to change when either the market or economic conditions or operational requirements demand it.
Too many small companies drive their business by only using the rear view mirror
I believe that for companies to grow they have to change. But some companies grow, in spite of themselves. That is, growth is driven more by external sources than specific plans or strategies. Sometimes, just by dumb luck - being at the right place at the right time. However, even for those companies, ultimately, to keep up with the growth, they have to change.
So how do you avoid complacency, prevent stagnation and manage the necessary changes to keep your company growing, fresh and vibrant? Here's some key guidance to help you do that:
Learn from yesterday; don't re-live it.Not everything you did to get your company launched was right. Know how you achieved your early success and continually build on it. Re-affirm the culture that created the company you have today. Make sure it's still working and you're still operating around the basic values upon which you founded the company.
Never stop asking hard questions.You have to continually question what you are doing and why. For me, why is the single most important question an entrepreneur can ask. "Why are we still doing that?" "Why are we losing valuable employees?" "Why are our customers demanding lower pricing?" "Why is our main product no longer a market leader?" Answering why questions, usually, gives you the root cause of problems, and that gets you on the way to solving them.
Embrace new people/new ideas.Never stop looking for better people or better ways to do things. Be open to "thinking outside the box," especially when it entails "sacred cows" within your organization, be they people or practices. Sometimes, companies outgrow functions or the way certain people operate. That doesn't mean you ax the function or the people, but are open to modifying either or both. Never stop encouraging new ideas from your employees. They can be an untapped source of new business growth or more efficient operations.
Continue to upgrade systems/processes.Technology can be a key factor in both driving change and making operations more effective. Have an ongoing plan to constantly review and upgrade systems and technology. It can also help make your operations more cost-effective as the price of technology continues to come down.
Know your market and how it's changing.The more comfortable you get in a market, the less attention you may pay to it. When you get to know the major players, or even become one yourself, you tend to just take less notice of small changes or nuances that are happening, like you did when you first started out. Has the market suddenly changed on you? Have some new players or new trends emerged that caught you by surprise? Time to stop admiring yourself in the rear view mirror!
Re-think the basic premise of the business.Sounds extreme, but it's not. Ask yourself this question - "If I were to start this business today, what would I have done differently, knowing now what I didn't know then." And further, think back at where and what you expected the business to be, by now. Is it? If not, why not?
Too many companies live in yesterday. Too many entrepreneurs are caught up in being hamsters on a wheel. To keep your company vibrant and growing you can't manage today's business through yesterday's eyes. Looking backward only helps if you are continuing to learn from yesterday's mistakes and building on yesterday's successes. Otherwise, backward is the direction you will go!
"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things. He's been there. May success be with you!
Have you found yourself or company too focused on the past? Please share your thoughts in your comments. It can help another entrepreneur.
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