The first month of the year is gone already. Are you winning or are you falling behind?
Listen up. Can you handle the truth?
What I am about to say may be confronting and the possibility is that you may get offended. But if you can handle the truth, then even if it is negative you can do something to make it positive. If you can’t handle it, well, you can please yourself.
I don’t care how well you think you are doing, I know your business is performing way below what it could achieve.
I know that sounds like an arrogant and presumptuous thing to say, but it’s time to face the facts.
Bear with me.
Although it sounds like I am being highly critical of you and your business, let’s consider the upside.
If your business is underperforming, it means that you have the potential to do much better.
When you discover how to unlock that potential, your results will be exponentially better that what you are achieving now.
Wouldn’t you like to think that it’s possible to achieve exponentially better results than you are currently getting?
You can if you can handle the truth.
Setting the Target
The start of the year is traditionally the time to reflect and plan; to set goals and targets. If not now, then you probably do it around the end of financial year.
If you are like most business owners, you may target a modest increase in your sales results and your profits. By far the most common figure chosen is a 10% sales growth. But, why?
To choose 10% as the target growth figure really has no more validity than any other number, if a number is to be plucked out of the air without considering strategies that are likely to help achieve the growth.
I think the 10% figure came about in the days when inflation was expected to be around that level, which meant if you didn’t increase your sales by that much you were really falling behind.
Really, choosing to target a growth rate of 10%, with no reflection on strategy, is really just about trying to maintain your business at about the same level in real terms.
Manager or Entrepreneur?
The real issue here is that most of the advice given to small and medium size business owners is about maintaining business at around the same level.
I call that a “management” approach based on small thinking.
I prefer to work with an “entrepreneurial” approach, which is about taking maximum advantage of opportunities.
The two approaches are quite different.
A manager’s role is to perform a job to achieve a certain result. It is normally about maintenance – maintaining the status quo in the way the business operates, maintaining sales levels, maintaining customer relationships, maintaining employee levels and working processes, etc.
An entrepreneur however, is big thinker. An entrepreneur identifies opportunities and finds new ways to capitalise on the opportunity by providing a product or service for a profit. An entrepreneur is never satisfied with the status quo, but is always focused on business growth, expanding sales and discovering new products to service the same market or finding new markets for existing products. An entrepreneur wants to get the biggest and best return on the investment of time and money into any venture.
The fact that so many businesses remain small or medium size, rather than continually growing into large organisations, indicates that at some point, the leaders in the business make a choice to become managers and to maintain the status quo, instead of being entrepreneurs who continue to look for growth. Whatever the reason for that decision, this choice means that the potential of the business is capped at that point and will probably never be fully exploited.
Think about your own situation. Just on a basis of statistics, you are probably in a small or medium size business that is not growing significantly. (By the way, I don’t call 10% growth significant – it is barely getting ahead.)
If that is the case, your business is currently underperforming in relation to its full potential. Now, I don’t want you to get angry with me for suggesting that. I realise that is the risk I run in taking this hard line. But if you can see this through with me, you will discover that only good can come from this line of thinking. Let me issue you with a challenge that can only lead to a positive result for you.
Change the Way You Think!
First – Accept that it is possible that you can do much better. Think about it. Is there a business anywhere in the world in your industry or a similar industry that is much larger and achieving better results than you currently achieve? OK. You can do better. You just don’t know how yet.
Second – Open your mind to the truth about how your business is going and be willing to receive new ideas. Most of us aren’t doing as well as we could with what we already know, so there is probably already much room for improvement without new ideas. But new ideas, or innovative concepts, are the way of the entrepreneur that lead to exponential growth rather than marginal improvement. Are you aware that most innovations come from people outside the industry in which the innovations are used? Most people are so busy perfecting or protecting what they know to take the time to think about innovation. The fact that the phrase, “thinking outside the box” has so much meaning is that most people are firmly locked into the box. I.e. they are locked into a way of thinking that maintains the status quo rather than providing an ability to come up with innovative approaches that can potentially expand results exponentially. Not only is a management (or maintenance) approach limiting to potential, it is also extremely risky for long term survival. We can all think of numerous companies who once led the field in their industry, who quickly became irrelevant or extinct when a new innovation from another company changed the playing field in their industry.
Third – Accept that your current way of doing things in your business is limiting your results. This may be difficult. After all, most people usually credit their success to the way they are doing things. However, the philosophy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is the language of losers. Successful companies innovate and find better ways to do things before their current methods are surpassed by competitors. Failing companies wait until their methods are obsolete before they start to make changes and then find themselves continually in a position of playing catch up – usually a downward spiral until the end. Continuous improvement and growing success comes from innovation, not maintenance, so to succeed at fulfilling your potential you should always be looking for better ways to do things rather than maintaining the status quo.
Finally – Accept that it is not harder to get better results but simply a matter of doing things differently, more effectively. Most companies in any industry operate in a very similar manner and achieve similar results. The “industry norm” is a very important benchmark for many managers. However, exceptional businesses are exactly that because they do things differently to the norm. Leading businesses go against the grain and break the mould their competitors are stuck in. They continually challenge the status quo and look for innovative strategies to give them the edge. Their results are often exponentially better than their competitors as a result and their growth rates are in the 100% plus range rather than the 10% vicinity. (Look at Google, Apple, Amazon, Uber, Air-bnb for example.)
Professional or Amateur?
Many people try to do better by aiming for 10% improvements because they don’t believe it is possible or that it is too difficult to achieve 100% increases or higher.
If that describes you, you must first believe it is possible and that it is not necessarily harder. It just means you have to look at things differently and look beyond your current knowledge and methods to achieve it. The most important element is that you need to change your mindset from being a manager to being an entrepreneur.
You need to be prepared to move out of your current comfort zones and develop an ability to operate at a new level. For most people, that means that before you go to work on your business, you need to go to work on yourself. You need to start leading your business like a professional instead of being an amateur.
A professional is someone who devotes full time and effort to an activity for reward. They frequently spend much time in preparation and study (or practice in the case of sports professionals) to develop their knowledge and skills. They usually have a mentor or coach to train them and assist them to develop their skills and attitudes.
Most owners of small and medium size businesses are amateurs when it comes to leading their businesses. They usually have very little training or education in business leadership or marketing. They spend most of their time working in the business like an employee and devote minimal time to leadership or business development aspects. They rarely use a mentor or business coach to guide them but prefer to make their own frequently common mistakes and struggle through on their own, not realising the cost of their limitations is far greater than the cost of getting help.
What Does It Take?
When you have a professional mindset you are prepared to handle the truth and are open to embrace new ways and new thinking.
Most business owners suffer from limited thinking and operate in maintenance mode. This could be because of over-caution and lack of confidence about tackling larger challenges, or through lack of knowledge about how to grow a business successfully.
Successful business owners operate professionally as entrepreneurs, willing to tackle difficult challenges with the confidence they will find ways to overcome. Often it doesn’t take much to create a huge impact on results.
Consider the impact the invention of the telephone has had on communication and commerce. Most people credit Alexander Graham Bell as the inventor of the telephone. But a less well known fact is that some years before Bell sent his first voice message by phone, a German school teacher by the name of Reiss developed a similar device that could transmit sounds across wires. However, the Reiss invention could only send sounds such as hums and whistles, while voice messages were unintelligible. Reiss never succeeded in getting his invention into the market. However, Bell made one small change to the Reiss invention, moving the screw controlling the position of the electrodes a mere 1 thousandth of an inch, which made speech intelligible through the device. This one small change led to the creation of an industry that now sees a telephone in almost every home, pocket and handbag in the developed world.
How many small adjustments could be made in your business to exponentially increase your results? What does it take to discover the important changes and not waste time with insignificant ones? You need to start by thinking like an entrepreneur and opening yourself to the possibilities.
The reality is that exceptional businesses are hugely rewarded for their superiority, while the rest merely get by at a survival level at best. If you are not experiencing exceptional results and exponential growth, the likelihood is that your business is not that outstanding and that you operate in maintenance mode rather than as an entrepreneur. My challenge to you is that you don’t take offence but that you take action.
Find out how you can create an innovative business that changes the industry playing field to your advantage and achieves exceptional results.
Make this year the year to think like an entrepreneur and break free from the limitations you currently live under.
You may like to start by learning about how successful entrepreneurs use leverage to grow their businesses strategically while they run them on autopilot. My book, Run Your Business on Autopilot is available for free download at www.businessonautopilot.com.au.
By Greg Roworth
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