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Entries in Business Reinvention (6)

Wednesday
Sep252013

Stagnant Business? Flow Forward

“The greatest enemy of progress is not stagnation, but false progress.”
~ Sydney J. Harris 
Once a business becomes successful, there comes a time, sooner or later, when it hits a plateau. The revenues become flat. The margins erode. The net profits decline.

This is a challenging time for business owners. Such stagnation often saps their energy and enthusiasm, sometimes causing a negative spiral of declining growth which feeds negative mindset with further negative impact on the growth of the business. This is when many business owners complain of getting tired of running their businesses. 
 
This is a good time for some tough self-love and brutal self-examination and inquiry into the inner workings of your business.
 
If you are a business that has been successful but has begun to show the early signs of stagnation, I invite you to take Business Health Check with Awayre Quotient (AQ). It’s absolutely free and comes with a free 24-page score guide and strategy handbook. Click here to get started.

Copyright 2013 Bhavesh Naik. All rights reserved.

Bhavesh Naik is the Founder and Creative Director of Awayre, LLC, a management consulting and human resource development firm specializing in activating the hidden power of a business process by engaging its people’s awareness. Awayre, LLC is a pioneer in bringing human awareness to the field of management and human resource development as its structural and fundamental component.
Friday
Sep172010

Don't Build Your Business; Know How to Build One!

 

“Irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors.”

~ Thomas Huxley


Have you ever played a sport like tennis, golf or soccer? Do you engage at all in recreational sports like skiing, biking or rock climbing? Did you ever play a board game like Monopoly, Game of Life or even Chutes and Ladders?


Since I was a little kid, I wanted to play tennis. One Friday evening a few years ago, a burst of inspiration hit me. So I went to the local bookstore and bought a book called Learn How to Play Tennis in a Weekend. I read the book cover to cover over the weekend. I called my friend, Craig, Monday morning and asked him if he wanted to play a game of tennis with me. “Sure,” he said, “but I didn’t know you played tennis.” “I do now!” - came a confident reply from me.


A little bit about Craig here. He is no Wimbledon Champion by any means, but he had won many tournaments in his days of college and had stayed reasonably fit after graduation. So when we got to the tennis court, it took him exactly 10 minutes to get me to the point where I had to be picked up off of the floor of the tennis court. We remained friends afterwards, but I never picked up the racket again. And I still don’t play tennis.

 

“Truth comes out of error more readily than confusion.”

~ Francis Bacon


I jumped into starting my first business in pretty much the same way. I struggled a lot in the first year of business. Luckily, I was able to make some changes in the second year that allowed me to do much better for the next five years reaching 2.5 million in revenues in 1999. I ended up selling the company. Then I started an internet startup, raised some venture capital and ended up folding it in 2001. I have had some ups and downs in my life. So I have some stories to tell. These ups and down forced me to do some deep soul searching around the years 2001 and 2002. What I found out was that my real passion was helping others build their businesses. And I was good at it.  My current business is my third one that I formulated in 2002 and have been building since.


Back to business. I am sure you have heard the statistics: something like 95% of the businesses fail in the first five years. What you may not have heard is the other statistic which says that about 80% of those who do stay in business, 4 out of the 5 of the 100, never achieve the kind of success they thought they would achieve when they started the business. Which means that only 1 out of 100 business builders actually end up building the fabled business of their dreams. And these statistics are from before the great recession of 2008-2009. The post-recession statistics might be much worse. 

 

“We are generally the better persuaded by the reasons we discover ourselves than by those given to us by others.”


~ Blaise Pascal


Do you remember the time before you started your business? May be there was a time you were thinking about starting your business and you asked around for some advice. There is a pretty good chance that you heard two kinds of advice.

One was some version of “Don’t Do It”. These words most likely came from family and friends. They obviously were not being very helpful and encouraging. In fact, after you started your business, there is a pretty good chance that these “naysayers” around you became a pretty big liability for you as you went about building your business.

But the other advice you may have heard, in my opinion, might be much more damaging and, in fact, dangerous. This advice is: “Just Do It.”

I know. I got that advice, too. And I took it. Now I cringe every time I hear it. Why? Think of it this way. If you don’t know how to box and get in the ring with Muhammad Ali, how long does it take before the knockout? About 10 seconds? If you’re lucky! That’s what many of us do with starting our businesses.
You see, the reason why so many of us fail at building a successful business is very simple: We Don’t Know How to Play the Game - the Game of Business-Building.

 

“Education should no longer be mostly imparting of knowledge, but must take a new path, seeking the release of human potentialities.”

~ Maria Montessori


The school and the college, and yes, our MBA degree, didn’t prepare us to be business owners. They prepared us to be employees: nurses, doctors, engineers, lawyers and even vice presidents, CFO’s and CEO’s. Nothing wrong with that, except that if we expect the traditional educational system to teach us the skill of business-building, we are very likely to be disappointed.

Here’s what I mean. Learning a skill, like business-building, is a journey from the head, to heart, to gut and then to actions. You see, building a business is not really an intellectual exercise. It’s also not just a physical or even an emotional exercise. It’s a combination of it all. It’s a skill. It’s an art-form.

The reason why small businesses are failing is because most business owners who start their businesses are entering the business arena at the novice level while other businesses - their competitors - are playing the same game at the expert level. They are entering the tennis court without having ever hit a ball across the net and their competitors are tournament champions and trophy winners. They are entering the Karate competition at the white-belt level while their competitors are 4th degree black-belts. They have never been into a boxing match before and yet they enter the ring to fight with a heavy-weight champion.

 

“Don’t just do it. Know what you are doing.”

~ Bhavesh Naik


Now, I am a realist. In my experience in helping more than a 100 business owners develop their businesses, I know that most people who are about to start their businesses will still jump into it prematurely, regardless of what statistics say. Entrepreneurs are notoriously hard-headed. And to an extent, that’s a positive quality. They will need that sense of supreme self-confidence to hack it in the world.

My message is really meant for those business owners who have been at the game of business-building for a while. They are the ones who really “get” what I am talking about here. They have experienced the trials and tribulations of building a business. That’s why, they are more open to my message.
But they have a serious dilemma. Many, if not most business owners accept and recognize that they need to continue to develop their skills in business-building. But they don’t have the luxury of taking two years off and disappearing onto a college campus. Even if they did, it would not help much because the world of academics is far removed from the real world.

They need to learn how to build their business while they are engaged in the process of building it. They need the intellectual help - the best practices and principles of successful businesses. But that’s only 25% of the way to mastering the sport of business building. They also need help in internalizing that knowledge by engaging with it emotionally, making it a part of their gut system and taking meaningful actions. As I like to say, they need to take the knowledge from the head to the heart, from the heart to the gut and form the gut to the actions.


“The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.”

~ Albert Einstein


What business-builders need is a change in the mindset, a shift in thinking. If they went from merely building a business to learning how to build one, the actual building of their business will happen almost as a by-product.

One of the sports I love is Martial Arts or Karate. Karate has intricately woven both the Art and the Science of the sport together in a system that could be taught and learned, step-by-step, incrementally and by practicing it. In other words, Karate is more about how to fight, rather than actually fighting.

Business-builders can take their inspiration from this model. They can treat their business not just as the means to achieve their dreams – which, of course, it is - but also as a way to learn how to build a business, by building it. When they do this, they can easily detach themselves from the act of building a business and see it as a sport they enjoy, a sport they look forward to playing every Monday morning.

 

“I am not a teacher; only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead–ahead of myself as well as of you.” 

~ George Bernard Shaw

 

Want to experience business habits in action? Join us at our next 360 Business Club “business workout session” where you get to practice business-building with like-minded business leaders.

Monday
May242010

Why Businesses Fail

You’ve already heard it: 90% of business startups end up in failures. Of those who do stay in business, a very small percentage do well – perhaps about 2% - the rest just get by, barely survive, or stay mediocre.

Why such a high rate of failure? I believe it’s because we have not identified and developed the right business habits that produce the results we want. This is why reading books does not make us successful, healthy, fit, wealthy or even happy. Neither do writing a thesis or graduating with Honors from an Ivy League University.

Business Building is a sport. You can’t learn how to play tennis or golf by reading a book, writing a thesis or graduating with Honors after two years of intense studies. The theoretical knowledge is a good start, but to truly master the sport, we need to engage with it emotionally, enjoy it, practice it often, and master it in small incremental steps.

What we habitually, consistently do, perhaps even without thinking, like driving a car, defines us to a great extent. Our habits drive our successes and our failures. Our habits make us efficient or inefficient. Our habits make us healthy or unhealthy, sharp or dull, wealthy or poor.

Because a business is made of people, the same holds true for businesses. The habits of a business defines its character. Habits drive its successes and failures. Habits make it thrive or wither away and die. Habits make it a market leader or a mediocre survivor. Habits bring out great lines of successful products or failures after failures.

Good business habits bring us good results. Bad business habits bring us bad results. Great business habits bring great results and terrific business habits bring us terrific business results.

Needless to say, breaking old habits is difficult. So is building new ones. What makes this process - of breaking old habits and building new ones - especially difficult is the fact that we often really don’t know what habit we should be adopting. We really don’t know what the best practices are for our business’ success.

I have been researching this subject - the best business practices and habits for a successful business - for over 12 years. Some of what I have found is simple common sense. Some of it is truly ground-breaking. And much of it seems like ground-breaking stuff but it really is common sense. It only seems like it’s ground-breaking because the commonly acceptable behavior is so non-common-sensical. Crazy, I know. But there it is.

If we are to succeed as a business, we must committ to reinventing ourselves as the world around us changes. Obviously, continuous reinvention, in small, incremental steps, is far easier than abrupt reinvention.

There is no better way to reinvent our business than to examine, and then change, its business habits, slowly, deliberately, incrementally and constantly. When was the last time you took a long and hard look at your business habits? Are you reinventing your business or are you stuck in the same old habits? Are you driving the change or are you being driven by change?

Want to experience business habits in action? Join us at our next 360 Business Club “business workout session” where you get to practice business-building with like-minded business leaders.