The number one mistake I see a lot of people make when running their business is falling so deeply in love with the idea of their business – their dream and vision – that they fall in to a paralyzing fear of making any decision that could destroy or jeopardize what’s been built.
After years of passionately striving, fighting, and growing something from nothing, they get to a place where they’ve “made it”. They can finally afford to run the business and pay themselves too. They’re not stressing over every little decision. The business isn’t at risk because a customer leaves you today. You did it. You created something out of nothing.
But then what? Are we naive enough to think that the market place is going to just stay static in our paralyzed dream state with us for the next 50 years until we get ready to hang up the towel and ease in to retirement?
If we are – we’re really, really stupid.
The short years that you’ll experience mediocre success will be the same time that your nearest competitor will be coming for your lunch – and let’s make no mistake – they will come for you. They will put the death grip on your brand. And if you’re not fighting to stay ahead of the curve, they will succeed in destroying everything you worked so hard to build.
And that’s it – that’s really the crux of it all. This is our choice. We can either be so passionate about making the business succeed that we’re willing to continually find a way to disrupt our own business model, or, we can hold our beliefs about what a great business model we’ve built, feel good about what we’ve accomplished, and wait for a competitor to come and disrupt our business over night.
To be clear: it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when – in every industry and vertical.
Exhibt A: Being a business owner in the vacation rental industry, I’ve sat at conference meetings listening to the C-Team at HomeAway (the VRBO, VacationRentals.com, HomeAway.com conglomerate) criticize and take stabs at AirBnB in front of a huge audience of industry business owners. Yet at a recent marketing conference I was attending, Wil Reynolds shared this nifty little graphic:
That’s right. While HomeAway/VRBO have been consistently criticizing AirBnB for whatever imagined deficiencies they perceive to exist because AirBnB’s business model doesn’t fit in to their tiny little box of how VR’s should be run – while they’ve been sitting around their cocktail parties stroking each others egos about how awesome they are and how superior of a brand they are – “AirBnB” as both a term and a brand are not only becoming synonymous with the term that HomeAway has been trying to rank for all these years (“Vacation Rentals”), it’s quickly becoming the phrase that people think of to describe the whole market whether they’re actually booking with a AirBnB property or not. (E.g. When’s the last time you ‘Searched’ for something instead of ‘Googled’ it?)
This is one small example of 10’s of thousands, but as a business owner it should cause us to shudder. It should cause us to think long and hard. If we’ve gotten lazy it’s time to step it up and get back on our A-game. Because the simple fact of the matter is this: we can lie to ourselves and think that trying something crazy is really going to risk the brand and the business, or, we can willfully accept that if we don’t try new things – if we don’t take those risks – someone else is going to put our brand at risk for us, and it’s going to be to late for us to catch up once they do.
So if you don’t love your own business idea enough to kill it, reinvent it, disrupt it and evolve it as quickly as you can for as long as you run your business, then you should just go ahead and cut ties – take your losses now. Walk away.
Your competition is coming for you and they don’t care how good you feel about your business model, or how good you feel about your brand, or your packaging, or your customer service skills, or how cool your logo looks, or how superior your product is compared to theirs. All they care about is finding a new way to sell the same service or product you have been for years in a way that’s never been done before that just might catch on and reinvent the entire industry.
So at the end of the day you have a very simple choice to make: Love your business enough to put it to death on a daily basis for the sake of long term growth and sustainability – or your competitor will put it to death permanently.