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Monthly Business e-Tips Vol 2
Issue 2

Run Your Business in Reality

I just returned from a wonderful vacation that allowed me time to relax and do some reading. One of the books I read was Jim Collins' Good to Great. If you haven't read it, I strongly recommend you do. Jim and his team spent five years interviewing and researching public companies that met his requirements for making the transition from good to great. To be included, each company needed to have at least 15 years of sustained success in its markets. Only 11 companies qualified from a pool of 1,400-plus candidates.

A recurring theme of the book is confronting brutal facts while never losing faith. For a company to achieve sustainable success, it must face reality. There are several reasons CEOs gloss over serious issues, including feeding egos, wanting to appear optimistic and fear of failure. Are you facing your reality?

Some signs that indicate you are not facing the truth about your issues:

  • You blame outside forces like competitors and the economy for your company not reaching its goals.
  • You focus on the more obvious symptoms rather than digging deeper to uncover the source of issues.
  • You avoid bringing experts in to look at your business.
  • You shield employees from the truth, trying to keep them motivated.
  • You avoid talking about issues hoping they will resolve themselves in time. They usually get worse.

Two examples of companies that did not face reality are Digital Equipment Company (DEC) and Wang Laboratories. They were once very successful companies that are no longer in existence because their management teams refused to face difficult situations. DEC's leaders did not pay attention to the evolution of desktop computers. By focusing on their proprietary mainframe technologies, they were not living in the real world. Wang, on the other hand, did not focus enough on its word processing business after introducing its new desktop computers. Both companies made critical errors by not making practical decisions to prepare for the future.

To work within reality:

  • Do not live off your laurels. Listen to those around you. Watch market trends, talk to customers and continually be innovative.
  • Design a culture that is open for comments and concerns and really listen. You will gather important issues and innovative ideas from every corner of your organization.
  • Train yourself and your employees to think like customers and prospects to understand their needs. In addition, encourage the same behavior with colleagues. Seeing the other side of conflicts reduces defensive behavior and contributes to successful problem solving.
  • When a problem is brought to your attention, look for further input from those you trust. Create a process to analyze and evaluate concerns so that important issues do not fall through the cracks.
  • Let everyone know about critical issues, let them become part of the solution. Turn problems into opportunities for growth.

Search for the truth, it will help move your company forward. Face the facts and proceed no matter how painful it is in the moment. It can mean the difference between your company flourishing or failing.

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