Beware Complacency

Building a successful business takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Sometimes it can take up to five years and longer to get established, but every savvy business owner understands that you can never truly get comfortable.

Complacency is our biggest enemy and it pays to think like a start-up on a regular basis.

In a rapidly changing environment, here are six questions that can help keep your business fresh and viable.

1# Is the business profitable?

Unless this is an expensive hobby, then this is the priority question. If the answer is no, and you don’t know why, then you need to explore even more in-depth the next five questions.

#2 Do we have adequate skills and resources to meet current day and future needs?

What can be outsourced, what needs to be provided in-house? Lease versus capital purchases? There are lots of options that can ease you through times of consolidation and/or growth. Don’t be afraid to seek professional assistance whether it be for business planning or logistics. And don’t forget to consider collaborating with fellow businesses to help share costs.

#3 Am I happy in my business?

It starts with us as a business owner. If going to work each day is a chore, we have to ask ourselves why. Do we need a break? Do we need assistance? Do we need a new challenge? Is it because our business is struggling? If the latter, we need to understand why it is struggling. Option A is to do something about it. Option B is to exit the business as quickly as possible.

#4 Are staff happy in their work?

We also need to ask these same questions of our staff in a way that they are prepared to answer honestly. Unhappy staff may come as a complete surprise if left to fester and ultimately can impact significantly on the business.

#5 Are we still relevant in what we provide?

Are sales going up or down in which particular products and/or services? Demand may still be strong but with varying nuances. It pays to keep an eye on what is happening globally so there are no nasty surprises. And don’t forget to keep asking your customers: Are we providing exactly what they are looking for?

#6 Are we still relevant in the way we service our customers?

Disruption is here to stay. 50 years ago disruption came in the form of self-service supermarkets and drive through fast food. Now, in the digital age, the way we service our customers is constantly changing and new products and services beyond our previous imagination are emerging EVERY day.

And a few final words of caution.

# Don’t toss the baby out with the bathwater! What do our customers appreciate about our business? KEEP doing it! What else would they appreciate? START doing it!

# Use the word 'disruption' sparingly. Change doesn’t need to be big. Discrete small changes on an ongoing basis can be just as effective in the long term. 

We have a choice to innovate or suffocate!

Taking on an agile and adaptable mindset will provide a stimulating and fulfilling workplace for owners and staff, as well as ensuring customers remain loyal.


KERRY ANDERSON: Founder of the Operation Next Gen program and author of ‘Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. In 2018 she was named as one of Australia’s Top 50 Regional Agents of Change. READ MORE

Kerry Anderson