Business Legends Live Long

Updated: October 11, 2010

Except us and our business beliefs. The way we've always done it becomes the reason for the mess we're in. And we just keep hanging on to the status quo - even as our markets move on - even as our success begins to wane.

But we do change you say. Yes, we do. We change our logos and our brands, our taglines and our office locations. We create new websites and materials, update our systems and capabilities. We do all kinds of things to change - at the surface.

Yet we don't usually change in the most important way. We hold onto our status quo thinking and beliefs about our markets and our business. We bask in our business legends born of past experience while we lose touch with our ever-changing market reality.

Often we can't even remember the source of those legends, the beliefs that drive our business. Some status quo thinking comes from our own internal beliefs, some from external sources—like those business-school rules that are handed down from mentor to student.

Some beliefs and rules help us succeed, while others send us to crash and burn. Knowns that were true a few months ago are no longer accurate, even as some rules apply for decades.

Only by objectively reviewing our knowns, then ditching the drag that holds us back, can we reach for sustained success. Seeing and accepting the truth, about our markets and business reality, is critical to defining our growth strategy.

Some business beliefs guide us toward success.

  • We must make a profit to stay in business.
  • Profitable growth is the growth that matters.
  • When we match distinct value with a market that is willing to pay for that value, we grow.
  • Customers are the reason we're in business.
  • Compelling value comes from more than our products.
  • We can't do everything. Focus is key to success.

You may need to tune our measurements and approaches around the above beliefs. But these tried and true business fundamentals represent status quos that you can stick to for success.

Then there are those business legends we must continuously challenge.

Some examples?

  • It's our biggest seller. Without it, we'd lose our market position.
  • They're our biggest customer. We need them to grow.
  • The competition has it, so we must get it too.
  • He/She's a great guy/gal. We have to keep him/her.
  • If we build it they'll buy it. Our product is just too cool.
  • We have to discount to beat that competitor.

These may be business legends and rules - but they are also fallacies in many companies. By following such knowns, we get ourselves into trouble. They may have been true at some pint, but that's no guarantee they are true today - or tomorrow.

So how do we get into the practice of continuously evolving to stay in sync with our changing markets?

Here are some of the techniques I use for my own business and personal life - as well as for my clients.

  1. If the answer is because it's always been that way - think again.
  2. Make it visible to your teams that change in search of improvement is a good thing. Make releasing your gravity, the weight and drag that hold you back and limit your potential, the a high priority behavior.
  3. Focus on value for today and in the future - based on where your customers and prospects are going - not here you've been in your past.
  4. Spin on a dime. Be prepared to change with your markets. Some markets shift continuously - so be ready to shift with them, or better yet - to shift ahead of them so your are waiting for them when they arrive. Staying in the same place - in your beliefs or your processes - is not a strategy for success.
  5. Consciously seek ways to improve. Make minor adjustments as needed, ever ready to turn up the power and to leverage a market shift that can propel you forward.

It's also important to get into the habit of questioning everything.

It's the only way to get beyond our programmed beliefs and into the reality of today's market. Be sure you always question your logic, that is, the "why" behind your thoughts, processes and beliefs. Keep digging deeper and deeper until eventually find your truth. Then follow that truth, wherever it evolves - and you'll find your path to growth.

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