Maturing gracefully in business- Part 4

dont-stop-growing-professionallyIn my last piece I talked about how important it is to create a culture of learning within your organization. You (and your employees should continually be exploring new and better ways of doing things. Playing this “grand game of business” well will sustain your success. But a caution. This does NOT mean you should adopt every new thing that comes down the pike NOR throw out everything you’ve been doing in your business.

In other words don’t forget to “Dance with the one who brought you”! Obviously you did something that caused you to be successful. So abandoning everything (including even those things that are working well) doesn’t make much sense. Marcus Buckingham weighs in on this subject in his book, The One Thing You Need to Know:

What makes sustained success so elusive is that, unfortunately, your strengths are rarely left to their own devices. After you have employed your strengths and achieved some initial success, other people—often well-meaning people, but, more often than not, people who are unaware of your strengths—insist on offering you new opportunities.

The secret to sustained success lies in knowing which (new opportunities) engage your strengths and which do not and in having the self-discipline to reject the latter.

In this sense, success is less about accumulating and more about “editing”. The metaphor here is not building, but “sculpting”, in that sustained success is caused not by what you add on, but by what you have the discipline to cut away.

Successful companies, as well as business owners, recognize what their strengths are. Not only that, but they also recognize what makes them strong. They understand that it’s not always the next-new-thing in business, but it can also be the fundamentals of business.

This is what Buckingham is talking about. It’s easy to get distracted. And it’s not always other people who do the distracting. As entrepreneurs we seem to have a natural predisposition to being distracted. It doesn’t take a lot to pull us off course, or worse yet, to cause us to get bored with things. (In our SFS seminar Steve Toburen calls this insidious danger “Displacement Activities”! I call it being an “ADHD manager”!)

So what happens to when we become a “bored” business owner. We stop generating financial reports religiously. We stop measuring critical factors in our businesses like labor rates, cash flow, and customer satisfaction ratings. We stop tracking our marketing to see what’s working and what’s not. We stop holding people accountable (including ourselves) for the things they’re supposed to be doing because they’ve become like family.

Now add to this mix the feelings of “irrational invincibility” that often accompany long winning streaks—the misguided notion that our winning streak will continue forever just because it’s gone on this long! If we’re not careful (or even worse if we buy into this illusion!) our businesses can drift off course quickly. Why? Because we fail to continue to pay attention to the fundamentals that built our success in the first place.

Winning streaks in business are kept alive by owners who continue to focus on business fundamentals. They’re kept alive by people who have established the discipline to stay on task even when they’re bored or they feel the rules no longer apply to them. So right now- start FOCUSING!

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

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