Question your ‘Old Faithfuls’

Do anything in business long enough and It becomes much like Yellowstone’s famous geyser, Old Faithful, that erupts every 35 to 120 minutes – it becomes normal and predictable. The problem is, nothing in business is as predictable as an Old Faithful. Your tried-and-true systems, products, services, behaviors, strategies, business model, leadership approach – even your company vision – can throw you a curve when you least expect it.

Trusting your “Old Faithfuls” to keep on keeping on is inherently dangerous. No business is immune to change or challenges from competitors that are more innovative and hungrier than you. Your trusted “secret sauce” will age and be challenged by one that’s new and improved. Entirely new service and product categories will emerge making your “Old Faithful” look, well, old. It may not be in our lifetime, but someday even Yellowstone’s Old Faithful will show up late, gurgle a bit and fizz out. The tourist crowds will fizz out too.

Here are some no-compromise strategies to avoid the complacency trap of trusting in your “Old Faithfuls”:

  • Think “fast or slow”: With technology, the Internet and the way social media can make or break a product – even spur the overthrow of governments – business and markets can change in a heartbeat. Given this, would you describe your company as fast or slow? If it’s “fast,” you’re already on your game, playing hard and more capable of innovating and shifting strategies quickly. If you describe your company as “slow,” complacency has already set in. Getting innovative and ramping up to outplay competition is going to be tough, if you can do it at all.
  • Think “pressure test”: “Old Faithfuls” burrow deep into a company’s thinking and behavior, making them difficult to challenge, let alone change. At your next leadership team meeting, try throwing your most sacred service, product, market strategy or business practice on the table with the following statement: “I believe it’s time to rethink and take a fresh approach to ___________.” You’ll get responses that range from utter shock to hopefully a few affirmative nods. In these economic times, it just makes sense to pressure test your tried-and-true “Old Faithfuls” to see if it’s time to upgrade or take an entirely new approach. NOTE: You need to be willing to put everything on the table to be scrutinized. Often, leaders are too personally attached to an “Old Faithful” to allow it be questioned or changed in any manner.
  • Think “shelf life”: I just threw out a bottle of salad dressing in my fridge that was well past its expiration date. The dressing looked fine, but being 10 months past the expire date was all the motivation I needed to trash it rather than try it. You need to do the same for everything and anything in your company. Things have a tendency to look and work fine when, in reality, they’ve grown old, stale and less effective. If it’s time to chuck some of your “Old Faithfuls” – do it. It’s probably just the thing your company needs to shift into innovative thinking and action.

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Please share your thoughts with me about today’s Monday Morning Wake-Up. Click above to comment.

Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO of Strategies and author of No-Compromise Leadership

Pass this e-mail on to your business colleagues, managers and friends. They’ll appreciate it.


3 Responses to “Question your ‘Old Faithfuls’”

  1. 1 Kamal
    May 30, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Hi Neil as alaways we look forward for your monday morning messages that are practical and motivating

  2. May 30, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Ironically, I had a conversation with my son-in-law this weekend — a computer-engineering/IT networking consultant — about his business. He said something about his company’s billing model that made me realize it was time to change mine. After seven-plus years of success, its reached its expiration date.

    Thanks to you and your salad dressing for the helpful insight.

  3. May 31, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Words to prosper by!

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