How to avoid the ‘Boiling Frog’ syndrome in your company

I’ve reflected before on the “Boiling Frog” syndrome where you gradually slip into a morass of complacency and lethargy that unstopped will doom your company.  The daily issues and problems that you combat can, over the years, cause you to lose your joy AND the sense of urgency that you had in the start-up of your business.  Think about it …

In the beginning every entrepreneur has his own dream of what he wants to achieve with his company. Yet, I can’t think of a single business owner I’ve worked with who started out with the expressed intention of wanting to be nothing more than a “mediocre success”! After all, who has ever stated, “My goal is to do ‘pretty good’ work. I’ll hire average people to work for me. And I’ll always struggle just to make a living.” But, the passage of time and the constant press of business can quench the fire the owner had when they started out on their business journey. If he or she settles down into complacency and does nothing to fan the flame, then sadly “mediocre success” is the best an entrepreneur will ever achieve.

In his book Primal Leadership, author Daniel Goleman offers a few suggestions to help you gauge whether you’re slipping into complacency. “Consider how you typically act these days, and contrast it with the person you were in the past. Do you awake each morning excited about the day? Do you laugh as much as you once did? Are you having as much fun in your personal life as you have in the past? Are you having as much fun at work? If you’re finding that your work, relationships, and life in general don’t make you feel energized and hopeful about the future, that’s a good indication that you’ve probably lost touch with your real self and could use some insight into the person you’ve become.”

After taking stock, if you feel you are drifting into complacency, you might find these suggestions helpful in reversing that trend:

  • If you’re a more seasoned owner (read here “older”!), it’s important to step back occasionally from the daily stress of running your business to evaluate your current level of energy and passion for life and business.
  • Expand your field of vision by finding younger, energetic entrepreneurs to talk with in SFS events. Or even better join our Strategies for Success: Growing Your Business Facebook Group! (You don’t need to be a SFS graduate to join us.) Ask these enthusiastic owners about their dreams, their visions AND their challenges. By constantly seeking fresh insights and new ideas from other business owners, you’ll keep from regressing into a groupthink of negative re-circulated complaints.
  • Accelerate the development of the people in your organization. Maybe it’s time to solicit their ideas for how to breathe new life into your company. After all, their futures, not just your own, are also hitched to the success of your company. So why not benefit from their ideas and tap into their excitement?
  • If you’re a younger business owner who’s energetic and full of passion for your dreams, the important thing is to be constantly vigilant for the subtle changes that take place as you and your business age. Be alert for the slowly receding half-life of the entrepreneurial adrenaline you drew on when you were launching and growing your company. Understand that inertia doesn’t knock on your door and announce itself. Instead, the “creeping cancer” of business complacency sneaks in slowly through unlocked doors when you let your guard down and stop watching out for it.

Regardless of where we are in the season of life or in the business cycle, we all need to remember that the level of passion and the commitment to excellence exhibited in our businesses is not tied to the heat our competitors put on us. It’s tied to the fire in the belly’ of the owner.  So how is your “fire” doing?

Chuck Violand (more about Chuck)
SFS Instructor
CEO Violand Management Associates[/private]

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