Maturing gracefully in business- Part 1

Successful business owners and managers understand that in business you’re either moving forward or you’re moving backward. There is no neutral position. Business is all about growth and change.

So, as the owners and managers of small businesses, we’ve conditioned ourselves to continually work to build our companies. We work day-in-and-day-out to make the next sale. We go to great lengths to make sure our customers are happy. We put in agonizingly long hours to make sure equipment is running correctly, that we have the people in place to get the work done AND that we’ve got the cash to actually pay for both of them!

Regardless of how we define “building our business”- we’re all dialed in to chasing this vision we have of the future—this point somewhere “out there” that we define as success.

As long as we have our heads down and we’re running forward toward this success we’ve defined, things are pretty predictable. (Even though they may not be easy.) We move forward…we stumble…we scrape our knees…we pick ourselves up and lurch forward again. Sometimes we get lucky—we happen to be in the right place at the right time—but we pretty much know what the rules are for achieving success and so we go to work at achieving it.

But, as our businesses start to mature, or as we start to achieve some of this success we’ve worked so hard for, things can change. Gradually, and sometimes without even noticing it, some of the rules change. If we’re not aware of these changes, the success we worked so hard to achieve can start to slip away.

In her book, Confidence: How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Begin and End, author Rosebeth Moss Kanter writes about this maturing process that takes place in businesses as they age or start to achieve some of this elusive so-called success. She writes:

“Success means that people or teams or organizations survive long enough to need maintenance and repairs—in other words, reinvestment. Winners undergo natural aging processes, as people get older, slow down, leave. Their facilities, tools, and bags of tricks get older, deteriorate, run down. Winners also face natural limits—the organizational equivalent of ‘shelf life’ and ‘shelf space.’ Some winners’ advantages reach limits, as all seats in the stadium are filled, or as product markets become saturated.”

Sometimes, achieving success is not the greatest challenge small business owners face. It’s maintaining it once they have achieved it. And it seems the more “entrepreneurial” the owner is, the more difficult this business stability can be.

Over the following weeks I’ll discuss how this maturing process can impact small cleaning and restoration businesses and their owners. And in my long-winded way I’ll offer a few suggestions on how you can prepare yourself for these changes. And we’ll examine how you can counteract the negative effects if you’re already seeing some “success erosion” in your business.

Chuck Violand (more about Chuck)
SFS Instructor
CEO Violand Management Associates

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