The Seven Failures of Business Growth
By Daniel Burrus
want to truly stand out in today’s marketplace and lead your company
to new heights of success, you have to work smarter and not harder.
For many leaders and managers, that’s easier said than done. Despite
their best intentions, they get snarled in the glaring failures that
derail business growth and stagnate profits.
for you to avoid the most common traps that stifle business growth,
you have to be aware of the seven top failures and know the
strategies to combat them. The following list will help you turn
failure into success and enable your company to exceed growth
Failure to anticipate: Most companies react to the changes that
are taking place right now. They react to customers, react to the
economy, and react to government legislation. Instead of merely
reacting, you need to anticipate future changes and plan for them.
The fact is that you can anticipate a great deal in your industry.
For example, are cell phones of the future going to have a high
definition screen with high definition video? Most people think so.
In the future, will we have better bandwidth for both wireless and
wired Internet connections? You’d be hard-pressed to find someone
who says “no.” In the future, will we have more storage in our
computers? Of course! Apparently you’re certain about quite a few
future events. Therefore, instead of being a crisis manager and
reacting to change, anticipate changes so you can drive growth from
the inside out. To do that you have to spend one hour a week not
thinking about the crisis of the moment, but rather thinking about
the predictable opportunities that are waiting for you. Make a list
of all the things you’re completely certain about. Then look at your
strategies and base them around that list. Only then can you be more
of an opportunity management organization.
Failure to communicate: There is a big difference between
informing and communicating. Informing is one-way, static and
seldom leads to action. Communicating is two-way, dynamic and
usually leads to action. Ironically, we have all these fantastic
communication age tools, but we’re using them in an information age
way. Realize that the information age is not our friend; it’s our
enemy in disguise. Ask yourself, ‘In our organization, are we better
at informing than communicating?” For most people, the answer is
“yes”. And if you can’t communicate internally with your staff, how
can you communicate externally to customers and shareholders? This
is not to say that you should stop informing people. However, you do
need to tap into the true power of communication. When you focus on
maximizing two-way communications, you can create a
communication-age organization and cause positive change much
Failure to collaborate: The majority of people tend to
cooperate, which is very different from collaborating. Even though
we often use the word “collaborate,” we’re really just cooperating,
which is a lower level function. Cooperating means “I won’t get in
your way and you won’t get in mine and we’ll work together when we
have to.” Such an approach provides results, but certainly not
outstanding results. Collaboration is when we put our heads together
and ask ourselves, “How can we create a bigger pie for both of us?”
Collaboration is based on abundance. Cooperation is based on
scarcity, meaning the pie is only so big and I want my piece bigger
than yours. Collaboration is about working together to create a
bigger pie for everyone. That’s how you can get competitors to work
with you and not against you. Remember that today’s technologies
allow us to collaborate in new and amazing ways. Make sure you’re
using them properly.
Failure to innovate: When asked when the last time they did
something innovative was, most companies have to go back five or ten
years to cite something meaningful. Why? Because the majority of
companies innovate once, come up with a great product or service,
form a company around it, and then they let it ride. They don’t
continue to innovate and create new products and services. Instead
they spend their activity asking themselves how they can be more
efficient…how they can do more with less…how they can reduce staff
and overhead…how they can use technology better. Those are all good
questions. However, you also want to ask yourself how you can use
technology and your people to create new products and services that
will increase the sales of your old products and services. The more
time you devote to innovation, the more profitable and efficient
you’ll ultimately be.
Failure to pre-solve problems: Some people say that a problem is
an opportunity in disguise. Nonsense! A problem is a problem. A
problem is only an opportunity before you have it. Realize that most
of the problems our customers and our company experiences are
predictable. In today’s world of rapid change, if you ask customers
what they want and then give it to them, you’re missing the real
opportunity. Why? Because your competitors are asking the same
question, getting the same answer, and providing the same solution.
Instead, you need to think a level higher and ask yourself and your
customers, “What problems are you about to have?” Then you can
develop new solutions based on the answers you receive. At that
point, you can base your product development on your customer’s
future problems and deliver the product or service right when the
problem is starting to hit.
Failure to de-commoditize: Any product or service can be
de-commoditized. Unfortunately, many companies tend to come up with
something new, and then that’s their main product. Other people copy
the product. Margins get thin. Sales slow down. And they end up
competing on price. The key is to take your product and put a
service wrapper around it. Here’s an example: In the electricity
industry, the utility provider has to ask ratepayers whether they
can increase the price. To de-commoditize themselves, one electric
company created what they called “digital electricity.” They told
customers that if you’re a company that runs a lot of expensive
computerized equipment and you don’t want the electricity coming
into your office to ever turn off or fluctuate in current or
voltage, then you need digital electricity, which will cost more.
Many big companies signed up for the more expensive service. In the
near future, homeowners will have an interest because they will have
multiple computers streaming audio and video in their home. So this
electric utility took a product and wrapped a service wrapper around
it so they could charge more. Therefore, look at your product or
service and think of ways that you can wrap a service around it to
add value. But don’t stop there. Keep adding value to it every year
so you never become a commodity again.
Failure to differentiate: Too many companies become just like
everyone else. They don’t continue to stand out. Even though they do
strategic planning, it’s usually just financial planning in
disguise. True strategic planning needs to be more than
numbers-based; it needs to focus on how you can differentiate from
your competition instead of being and doing more of the same. So how
do you differentiate? Simple…you stop doing all the failures of
business growth just discussed. You start anticipating,
communicating, collaborating, innovating, pre-solving problems, and
de-commoditizing. Realize that you can infinitely differentiate your
company if you’re only bold enough to try. Have the courage to do
the things your competition isn’t doing.
Jumpstart Your Company’s Success: Business growth doesn’t have
to be a mysterious thing. When you know the failures to avoid and
the strategies to combat them, you’ll be well on your way to
creating an organization that continues to grow despite outside
conditions. So learn from these failures and rethink the way you do
business. It’ll pay off for years to come.
Read other articles and learn more
about Daniel Burrus.
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