Handling the Business of Change


From second to second, day to day and year to year, one thing that is known for certain is that time has an uncanny way of moving in only one direction. However, there are never any two seconds, days or years that are the same. Life itself is perpetual, constantly moving and ever-changing. Although this is basic intuitive logic, most—both personally and in business—do not accept change and, as a result, do not plan for it. Instead, they cling to rigid systems and concepts that they feel comfortable with, regardless of whether or not they work. Most people have a tendency to choose predictability instead of change—even if this predictability results in failure.

The mystery of control

Think about this on a basic personal level for a moment. By a certain age, people know what foods and drinks work with their bodies. They are so cognizant of these facts that diet and food are one of the most common topics of conversation. At the same time, most opt to continue with a diet that simply does not work. Instead of changing it, some people spend time proactively mitigating the consequences with antacids, rigorous exercise and extreme starvation diets. How can something so simple and completely within control go so wrong?

Businesses, more so than not, function in much the same way. Usually at one point or another a business plan is developed, and it serves as the basis or architecture of a business. This is not always a sophisticated plan, but at least it outlines the basic fundamentals. Although business owners inherently know what is good and not good for the business, if they are not operating proactively, the business, like the diet, takes on a life of its own and becomes arbitrary. This is the tipping point that makes the difference between a person or company working defensively or offensively, and is directly related to their ability to realize and act upon change. Those in defensive mode spend their time and energy putting out fires. Those in offensive mode never let the fires begin, and spend their energy moving forward and achieving their objectives.

Forced change

At one point or another, age and health will force change upon a person. For example, when you were 20, your diet and sleep were not usually a topic of conversation because you could eat anything, hardly sleep, and always seemed to look and function great. At 45, a burger and fries will immediately transfer to your waist, excite your blood pressure and increase your already-high cholesterol. And if you are not in bed and sleeping by 10 pm, your next day will be shot. The fact of the matter is that people are capable of change; however, it is usually extreme conditions that force change. Is it then laziness, lack of urgency, sensory overload, or just plain lack of planning that allows and fosters this state of complacency?

With business, it is also extreme measures that usually force change. For example, the BP oil disaster has forced new regulation and oversight on oil drilling; the economy shift has forced businesses to embrace electronic advertisement; and, for the spa industry, the economy has forced the determination of hard-yet-clear decisions regarding your team, menu, retail brands you carry and your partners. (See Retail Tips.) Change is tough, there are no two ways about it; however, it is also exhilarating and exciting. Once you have experienced change and realized the potential, it can renew your outlook and ambition of what can really be done in a short period of time. It also makes you wonder why you did not consider some of the modifications that arise years ago.

What about voluntary change? Again, it gets a bit scary if the boat is sailing smooth to voluntarily initiate change. On the other hand, if you do not lead change, it will happen on its own outside of your control, in an arbitrary fashion. If you are not the person who implements change, you then become the follower of another’s change. Which is the path of a person moving forward?

Offensive business strategy

An offensive business strategy means that you are aware of your objectives and measurements that confirm these objectives; you are consistently evaluating the methods used to reach your goals; and you are prepared to change or modify your methods if they are found to be ineffective during your review. In short, you are taking charge.

By educating your team on the objectives, the evaluation of the measurements, and commenting and coaching on methods and performance, you are effectively leading and working an offensive business strategy. The opposite of this is complacency, which leads to arbitrary decisions and a business environment that will keep you busy forever, chasing and defending.

A defensive business environment is erratic, unpredictable and constantly in emergency mode. Simple rudimentary tasks become deal-breakers and commonly evolve into situations that absorb significant amounts of time and resources. These environments are not only uncomfortable, they are exhausting and stressful. Worst of all, they do not allow the business to focus on what it does best.

Without a crystal ball, what choice do you have? How can you plan for a future that remains a mystery? Accept change, understand change, and realize it is a key and vital component of every successful business. Although it can sometimes seem erratic, nearly all change occurs with discernible patterns of trends and often cyclical similarities. Preparing for the known makes sense, and allows you the ability to seize the opportunity of real change, in real time, when it is needed.

The devil is in the details

Although many businesses function in an exhaustive reactionary mode, others seem to succeed effortlessly. Is it luck? Planning, preparation, execution and surveillance are crucial. This is a perpetual cycle. There are many 80% in life and some 90%; however, only a few that make it down the final stretch that is equated to success. The irony is that the final stretch is available to anyone and any business willing to dedicate themselves to mastery. So, the next time you witness success and begin to think about how lucky that person or business is, appreciate their hard work and diligence because they should be celebrated.

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