How long do we take to respond to external impulses in our business, to warning signs, to the proverbial handwriting on the wall? There are many factors at work here. First, we are typically so busy doing what we are doing that it may take us awhile to figure out that the world is not standing still. Then, even if we pick up the warning signal that something fundamentally has changed, our tendency is to wait it out for a while and see if things don’t return to normal. At that time very likely wishful thinking kicks in and we convince ourselves that we can see it through without having to make painful adjustments that would take us out of our comfort zone. Let’s face it: we are creatures of habit as much as we don’t want to admit so, we do not normally change until the pain of staying with the status-quo exceeds the pain caused by change.
Sounds familiar? Small business is definitely more susceptible to the problem of inertia than big business because it generally lacks the benefit of a regular outside review of what’s happening inside the operation. Independent small business owners find out all the time that it is lonely at the top. Small business cannot tolerate layers of management and cannot afford expensive consultancy other than in rare cases. Therefore is has limited access to outside impulses, new approaches and critical review of existing practices and processes. Small business owners doggedly keep their heads down, doing what they do best and keep doing it. Over time they have blinders on whether they realize it or not.
Fundamentally, this is why the business landscape changes constantly and companies –even big names – come and go. Adjusting too slowly to new realities is a mortal sin in business.
Pat Jones, in his interview with Dean Graves, Superintendent at Chevy Chase Club, for the October 2009 Issue of Golf Course Industry magazine draws out that complacency is the enemy: “in short, don’t take what you’ve done today for granted and try to do better tomorrow.”
This is not unlike Bill Gates admonishing us that success is a lousy teacher, because it fools you into thinking that you can’t fail. Or Mike Krzyzewski admonishing his players: “If what you have done yesterday still looks big to you, you haven’t done much today.”
So, how to overcome the gravitational pull of inertia? There are many good answers to this question. In the first place, a small business owner is well advised to hook up with Aileron. If he does, he will likely be told to get himself an outside board of directors. These two steps alone will take him out of his isolation –and probably out of his comfort zone too – and expose him to the impulses from the outside that he so much needs.
Another way for a small business owner to pull himself out of inertia is to force himself for a good part of his working hours to act like an owner/entrepreneur rather than the chief crisis handler. Aileron has a “Dream Room” a place where you are encouraged to come to dream big dreams about what you are going to do with your life, your business and your future. The dream room is equipped with a white board enabling you to write down the fabulous dreams you conjure up. You don’t have to come to Aileron to do that. Taking time out to contemplate what you can and want to do different in order to produce different and better results is a good way to overcome inertia. It forces you to see that there is a different world out there than the world you have come to accept as your own. If you are not happy with the results of your efforts then it is ludicrous to expect a better outcome from doing more of the same!
Dreaming is one way to shape your future. Another way is learning from other entrepreneurs, applying their ideas and concepts – particularly the proven ones – to your business. You can do that again by engaging with Aileron by registering for some of their courses. Or by joining a local or regional business round table. At the same time you should read at least two business books a year and apply the learnings in your business.
One key to breaking through the inertia curse is found in opening yourself and your business up to external influences. Another one is in cultivating and increasing your awareness of how and how fast the world and the economy in which you operate is changing and then forcing yourself to adjust. The third key is to never be satisfied with the status-quo and always be working on a plan that brings you closer to realizing your dream.
Inertia is an ugly thing. It keeps you in a place you no longer should be.