As we near yet another year end and get ready for the Christmas break, I was suddenly struck by the massive changes that the world of business has undergone over the last few years.
We can all recollect and recall the big names that are no longer with us. People like Woolworths, Comet, Blockbuster and more all sorts of enterprises big and small have ceased to exist or changed beyond all recognition.
In 2001 Jim Collins published his seminal study of successful companies in “Good to Great” which studied the handful of companies that made the leap from good to great. It is a highly rated and well researched piece of writing and is in most people’s top 10 business books. Yet by 2009 some of those great companies had already failed and so he wrote “How the Mighty Fall”.
The point is that even great companies can fail and possibly will fail without constant management and vigilance. So I thought you all deserved a hearty “well done” for having survived another year.
Owning and operating your own business is a rare thing. Only a very small percentage of the population ever have the courage and the conviction to brave the massive odds stacked against them to try and develop their own business in the first place. Statistically the odds are that most businesses won’t make their tenth anniversary (only about 4% do!), and yet still we try. So while we celebrate another year of survival let’s also understand that the objective was never to merely survive. The objective was to thrive, to create something that was successful, to create something valuable and value adding to you, your shareholders and your customers equally.
There are no guarantees of success. There are too many variables in business but there are things that we can all do to help stack the odds more in our favour. On the flysheet of “How The Mighty Fall” Collins quotes himself saying “whether you prevail or fail, endure or die, depends more on what you do yourself than on what the world does to you”
I start off every Gazelles workshop with these words.
“Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed…
Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle…
When the sun comes up, you’d better be running”
This is a brutal metaphor for a business but we all have seen that business life can be brutal.
So over the well deserved break I hope that you will take some time to reflect. Reflect on how well you have done to have survived the most brutal of times in business and take confidence from your achievements. As you do that you will also be aware that no matter what the global economic landscape might be running a successful business successfully will never be easy. Stormy waters are not the exception, they are the norm and so perhaps you might consider what you can “do yourself” to stack the odds in your favour and how you can be more certain that when the sun comes up in 2014 you will be fit enough, healthy enough and prepared enough so that you are running fast enough, consistently enough to be neither killed or starved to death.
I wish you and your families a very peaceful Christmas and a highly prosperous New Year.