In reading More magazine’s online version recently about their Reinvent Yourself feature I was struck by an idea: reinvent your business. I liked reading the articles that answer their questions: “…Have you turned your passion into a business or a nonprofit? Have you pursued a dream, nurtured an artistic talent, or mastered a new hobby?…”
I know a few women who have changed direction in midlife and admire their courage and enthusiasm. But what about those who like their business and don’t want to change careers or direction? I began to think of the term “complacency.” I like the Merriam-Webster definition: “…self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies….” It’s the “deficiencies” aspect that struck me. How many of us get so satisfied with our business, or with our current success, that we’re in danger of being complacent…of being blind to the deficiencies that might exist?
Let’s explore this by picturing our business as an office…four walls and a door. Those of us with an office go in and out daily and over time can begin to not see what is there. Have you ever noticed the phenomenon that at some point you no longer see the paintings hanging on your wall? If one were to be removed, you might not even notice its absence at first? That’s complacency and over-familiarity. I think we can see our businesses this way.
What if you took everything out of your imaginary office? What if you pulled everything out and stacked and piled it outside in the hall? Pull out the furniture, haul out the filing cabinets and pile up all the electronics and books and paraphernalia that clutter the office. All that should be left inside is the carpet/flooring and window coverings.
Now stand in the doorway and observe. How long have you had this office [this business]? How long has it been since you’ve seen its “bones?” Look closely:
- do the walls and woodwork around the doors and windows need repair? Repainting?
- does the carpet need cleaning or even replacing? Have you been “making do” with a cement slab and now its time to add a carpet?
- do the windows need cleaning? New window treatments? Do you even have a window?
- do you need more electrical outlets? Better lighting options?
The room is the foundation of the office. Make the repairs- repaint, clean, scrub and tend to the carpet and window treatments. Choose new colors and textures to reflect who you are now and where you want to be. You may have started your business with old sheets turned into curtains but now it’s time for double-pane glass and bamboo blinds. Make the changes, upgrades, additions or subtractions then begin to address everything stacked outside the door.
Look at the furniture, electronics, filing cabinets…all the “stuff” that occupies the office. What has outlived its usefulness? What needs an upgrade? What no longer works and has been sitting in a corner collecting dust? What’s missing – a couch? conference table? recycle bin?
The same protocol we used to clean out and renovate the imaginary office can be used with our businesses. How long has it been since you’ve:
- taken inventory of your offering(s)? Do you know what actually works and what doesn’t?
- re-schooled, re-trained, re-tooled? Are your “best practices” truly “best?”
- looked at your business from your customers’ viewpoint? Is there something your customers or clients wish you would offer that you don’t currently? Do you know which aspects of your business keep your customers or clients coming back? Is it the products or services alone or do you have added value through exemplary customer service?
- looked at your business from your competitors’ viewpoint? Can you identify your business’ uniqueness in comparison?
Is your business:
Complacency is a killer. Resting on past success is no guarantor of future success. We all know these things but seldom do we take our business outdoors and shake it like a floor rug in the fresh air.