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Don’t Get Too Comfortable: 4 Ways to Fight Complacency in Your Business


Minyang Jiang


Many of my clients had a respectable to excellent 2015. For most, sales re-bounded and profitability generally followed, and the past year represented a return to or increase over levels dating back a number of years. In general, many are optimistic about 2016.

While this is great news, I do have a fear that I have expressed to my clients: DON’T GET COMPLACENT. As business improves, there is the tendency to think everything is back to “normal.” I submit that there truly is no “normal” in this era; anything can happen, and probably will. To that end, I offer a few suggestions to help fight complacency.

1. Analyze your sales base.

If any client makes up a high percentage of your sales — say, 20% or more — prepare ways to dilute the impact should they decide to move their business elsewhere. Too many of my clients place their success or failure on too few clients.

Consider looking at the rest of your existing client base and establish a metric for growth with them. At the same time, you need to remain or become aggressive about new client development.

When I coached field sales teams, I insisted that during their annual budgeting process they account for how they would replace 15% of their revenue each year. That became the lost business metric we used.

2. Remain vigilant on costs.

When profitability increases and cash flow pressures ease, there is a tendency to be less vigilant. Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World and star of The Profit, sums it up quite clearly: “focus on people, product and process.”

So what I am saying here is not strictly “cut costs,” but rather focus on these three areas to drive efficiencies which will drive costs per widget or cost per customer down. This continuing exercise will allow you to scale your business as you drive sales growth.

3. Analyze your bench.

As I write this narrative, the NFL has moved into playoff mode which means 20 teams that did not make the playoffs are preparing for next season. Senior management teams are analyzing their players, determining who to retain, who to jettison, who to look for in the draft or free agency.

In business, we do not have an off-season, because we are open year round. I submit that at least 10% of your team can be or should be replaced at any time. I am not saying these employees are bad, but often the business has outgrown their effective skill sets. Always be on the lookout for talent that may help you gain greater return in the roles that the bottom 10% currently hold.

4. Actively gain perspective from others.

Too often we get tied up on a daily basis working in the business. Before you know it, the year has passed and the ability to truly impact your business has passed you by. You became too busy doing things. I recommend reserving times on a regularly scheduled basis to work on the business, not just in it. Seek outside perspective.

Seek help from peer advisory or mastermind groups. Link with other business owners from other industries to learn from different points of view. The few hours a month you invest will return significant dividends.

While connecting with others in your industry is beneficial, working with other private business owners in other industries truly pays even bigger dividends. This different perspective often leads to paradigm shifts that can be applied to your business.

Here’s to a successful 2018, everyone.