Does your business suffer from “Boiling Frog Syndrome”?


Chuck explains the 3 ways YOU may be slowly “boiling your company”!

I’ve talked before about a peculiar characteristic of frogs: “They can’t detect subtle changes in the temperature of the water they’re in. If you place a frog into a pot of boiling water it will instinctively jump out to save its own life. But, if you place a frog into a pot of cool water and turn the heat on under the pot the frog doesn’t notice that the water is getting warmer. The frog will obliviously ignore the GRADUALLY increasing temperature, will stay in the water and literally boil to death.”

So could YOU slowly become a victim of the “Boiling Frog Syndrome”? Absolutely! You see, some business leaders settle into unproductive routines or let conveniences that start out small and yet grow into large habits—eventually allowing the dreaded inertia to set in, and in some cases, actually “slow boiling” their companies!

In my twenty-plus years of working with small business owners, I’ve learned that most businesses don’t fail because they’re killed off by aggressive competitors, tight employment markets, or changing market conditions. Rather, they die from “slow suicide”! This is when a business leader becomes comfortable with the status quo or becomes satisfied with mediocrity. The owner slowly atrophies into a “non-leader” and as a result, kills their own business by allowing it to slowly wither away! This makes me wonder…

How such a thing can happen to hard working, intelligent people? How does the passionate drive of an entrepreneur slip away? The “Boiling Frog Syndrome” —the slow, stealthy creep of compromise and complacency—poses perhaps the greatest threat to the ongoing success we worked so hard to achieve. And because of its subtle entrance, we frequently don’t even recognize it! So here are three reasons for the “boiling frog syndrome”…

1. We become bored with the business that once consumed our thoughts day and night! The “sexiness” and sheer excitement/fulfillment of being in business for our self has slowly faded away. Now our attention is pulled away by other interests or creative distractions…some productive, but many times, not so much!

2. We take on an attitude of entitlement. We tell ourselves we’ve worked hard for the success we’ve achieved. Now it’s time to enjoy the rewards of that hard work and years of sacrifice! (Even if we have to pillage the company treasury to do so!) Every business owner should enjoy the rewards of their hard work and sacrifice, but using company resources for personal fulfillment becomes unacceptable when it threatens the security of your organization. (This threat can even be as basic as postponed raises, outdated equipment, or insufficient employee development- all of which destroy employee morale and quite possibly your company!)

3. We settle into a complacent lifestyle. This leaves us vulnerable to market forces that can jeopardize our companies! (And to competitors who are all too willing to take our place in the market!) Spending too much time at the “company” beach house or chronically showing up for work only when it’s convenient or doing little more than playing solitaire on our computers all day can cause us to avoid making the tough calls we need to make.  Don’t let your comfortable routine become sacred!

In my next SFS Instructor’s Blog post I’ll provide some tips on how to recognize whether you are slowly boiling your company and offer a few suggestions on how you can avoid the fate of the frogs with your business! Chuck Violand (more about Chuck) SFS Instructor CEO Violand Management Associates

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