Friday, August 21, 2009

How to Thrive in a Changing Business World: Part 3

The New Solution: Embracing the Uncertainty Paradox
Times of rapid change create tremendous uncertainty. That uncertainty paralyzes many people and businesses, creating fear. It also destroys many companies—shredding their marketing and strategies. Here's the paradox: that what destroys the old creates opportunity for something brand new—new execution, new thinking and new strategy for those businesses that have the drive and creativity. In times of change, there's only one choice: businesses must change as well—and faster than their competitors. This involves anticipating the changing needs of customers, testing new opportunities, bringing more value to consumers and innovating. Even the smallest modifications to sales, marketing and service processes can fundamentally set a business on a corrected course to success.

Achieving mastery over uncertainty rests on three primary pillars—pillars that provide stability in uncertain times. These pillars are timeless, meaning they stand rock-solid through times of change.

Pillar 1: Extreme Focus: The Outcome Must Be Clear and Compelling

Laser-like focus is essential to thrive in uncertain times. The illusion: doing many things at once improves efficiency. The reality: more can be accomplished when complete focus is placed on a primary objective.
When a business pursues many different ends, the best result is mediocrity. When that same company aims with complete focus towards a single objective, the road is paved for supremacy. Clarity in focus means more power to drive the business. Clearly conveyed and compelling goals fuel leaders and employees to work together to reach a
common destination.

For example, consider Tiger Woods. Why is he the best player in the game of golf? His vision is not to be "one of the best players"—it's to be "the best" player in the history of golf. With his determined and laser-like focus he is
able to constantly refine his tactics, moving him towards his goals. A laser-guided missile fires towards a target that is often moving. Once it's locked onto its destination, all it cares about is hitting the mark. The
trajectory is irrelevant. Similarly, extreme focus will help businesses achieve their desired results. Aristotle hypothesized that purpose could spur action. It turned out he was right. A landmark examination of a decade's worth of goal-setting studies identified the key connections between setting goals and achieving results. When setting a company vision, here are the salient takeaways from the research:

Make it Compelling:
Not only does the outcome need a laser-like focus that is important, specific and clear, more importantly it must be compelling—and it must inspire. Eighty percent of the drive behind a goal is a strong reason
to act. People don't move until they have strong motivations. With a strong enough "why," the "how" becomes evident. Ask the question, "Does this excite me?" and "Is this vision a must, instead of a should?" In order to get
the job done, everyone has to be compelled. Not only does the team need to know what the goal is, but why it is important to them—something that's different for everyone. Some will do it for pride— they are not okay with being number two. Other people know they are making a difference in the lives of customers.

Make it Measurable: A goal must be tangible—meaning it must be grasped and people must know when it's been achieved. When a goal is specific and measurable, everyone knows clearly what the end game is. Simply saying,
"Try hard," is not as attainable as, "Increase sales by 50% in 12 months.”

Reach for a Specific Reward: Reward success. Research shows that monetary rewards are one of the best incentives. Other people desire acknowledgment. Whatever the reward, make it specific. For example, "If
we achieve this goal, we're flying the entire team to Hawaii for an all expense-paid trip." When setting a new vision for the business, make sure the outcome us desirable. Just making a goal for the sake of progress is not as important as asking, "Is this what I really want for my business?" Make the focus clear and specific so employees know what they're aiming for.

Pillar 2: Seek the Best: Leverage the Best Tools and Strategies

Once a strong vision has been established and everyone on the team is willing to work hard to reach the prize, now it’s time to win the race. That happens by finding the best resources that will provide a competitive edge.
Great vision without strategy won't equal results. Businesses must seek out the best tools, strategies and mentors, along with the most accurate maps. Because the landscape has changed, the old map can no longer guide the business. Failing to access new ideas, strategies, people or tools can prevent a company from achieving its objectives. Consider Tiger Woods again. He went to his coach and said, "Show me anything I could be doing better." His coach revealed something… But it would require he fundamentally changed his swing—one that was winning many tournaments. However, because Tiger Woods' vision was so clear, he underwent the enormous task of retraining his swing. He also began lifting weights—an unusual undertaking for a pro golfer. Today few would doubt that Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer in the history of the game—and he's only in his 30s!

There are two primary ways to find the right tools and strategies: (1) personal trial and error—a painful process that can take years, or (2) modeling what's proven to work by tapping the experience of others who've
demonstrated consistent success.

The fast track is to leverage the experience of experts. Every market has a success story. Price Club was the first profitable wholesale club and took enormous risks. However, Costco saw that Price Club's model worked and
successfully applied it, taking none of the risks, yet achieving market domination. By modeling what has worked for others—regardless of industry—a business can quickly achieve results.

Good is the enemy of great. Don't just settle for good tools and mentors— seek the best. To achieve long-term sustainable growth, it's wise to team with outstanding mentors who will coach, train and hold the business owner
accountable. To find these experts, start socializing with successful people, attend their events, take them to lunch or offer to do something for them.

Pillar 3: Massive Action: Eliminate Inner Conflicts, Unlocking and Unleashing Success

Knowing the best tools and strategies is invaluable. However, too often business owners fail to consistently take action and achieve results they are committed to—destroying the effect of the first two pillars. The invisible enemy blocking the road to success is inner conflict. For example, "You want to control everything, and yet you still want to leverage and expand your business." These limiting beliefs hold back the business, preventing progress.

The key to overcoming inner conflicts is to first become aware of them.
Uncover any thoughts holding back the business from achieving its vision, unlocking and unleashing an open discussion of the issues.This is accomplishing by bringing the team together in a safe environment and brainstorming any concerns, fears and limitations. Revealing issues that create holdbacks or may be preventing them from committing all of their resources to achieving the goal. This can often be best accomplished by bringing in an outside expert who has no emotional charge to any of the challenges that would be discussed.
The secret here is to let the concerns and fears come out and identify ways to mitigate the risks and challenges. Determine if there better ways to achieve the outcome using the brain trust of the team. Together decide if the
rewards are worth the risk. The "United we stand, divided we fall" concept is real. By getting the team aligned, the laser-like focus and strategy will be executed. The result will be a team that works together to achieve massive

Take some time to identify all the concerns and fears. Ask how they can be mitigated and develop an action plan to address them head on. Alternatively accept the risks, but acknowledge that the benefits far outweigh them. Come
up with a plan to review those concerns or develop a unified vision of why the rewards are worth the risks.
By bringing concerns into the open and determining how to respond to them, the final barriers to business success will be toppled. The company will be aligned to success.

If strategies fail, keep trying new ones, constantly revisiting the vision. Reexamine how to achieve success using the best tools and strategies identified in pillar two. Understanding the true goal and the driving force will
provide the fuel needed to form new habits and follow through. A significant 75 percent of businesses fail in their first years according to the U.S. Small Business Association. Don't become a statistic. When all three pillars work together, a strong platform results—one that businesses can stand on in uncertain times.

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