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Is Your Business Boiling Frogs?

Most of us have heard (if not tested) of the phenomena of placing frogs into a pot of water and slowly turning up the heat. Unlike placing the frog into boiling water when it will immediately hop out of the water; the gradual change in the water temperature does not lead to any avoidance actions.  Rather, the transitional change in water temperature eventually leads to the frog being boiled.  The analogy for businesses is that the slow degradation of skills, standards, expectations, and performance can equally lead to disaster.

Is your business sitting in boiling water?

Is your business sitting in boiling water?

How it Happens

Business professionals don’t intend to take steps that lead to their demise.  No executive purposely tries to torpedo the potential of their business.  In fact, there are a plethora of “reality television” shows that focus on having an expert help a business owner who is floundering because they have been sitting in the proverbial boiling water and haven’t realized how they got there (Restaurants, Bars, Tattoo parlors, etc. all have their own version of televised help shows).

However, over time any of the following may occur:

  1. The goals of the business may change, but the strategies and tactics do not (leading to misalignment and then failure).
  2. The equipment or tools being used are not permitting the business to remain competitive with competition.
  3. Customers/clients/shoppers’ needs evolve and change their requests (demands) for products or services, but the business is ill-prepared to meet the new requirements.
  4. The skills of the employees are not kept current, and each subsequent generation of employees is being trained, managed, and evaluated by supervisors whose own skills are less developed than their predecessors and, in turn, hold their subordinates to even less rigid standards.

What to Do

Among the key approaches to avoid having this happpen to your business, are:

  1. Use “mystery shoppers” to sample the way the business interacts with customers.
  2. Create a “board of directors or advisory board” from outside the business of mentors, professionals, or others that can provide an objective view of the business, competition, the market, etc.
  3. Have a “share group” of customers to provide insight into their current needs, future desires, frustrations, or insights.
  4. Conduct market research to assess how products/services are performing, identify trends, gain early indications into desired innovations, etc.
  5. Set aside time to think and plan about the business (and the steps to be taken to achieve the future  state)
  6. Commit to training, measurement of results, monitoring of performance, and reinforcement.

For instance, the great frustrations that so many shoppers have with retailers can be mitigated or reduced if businesses would commit to the above steps.  Doing those things would have an impact on:

  1. customer service
  2. inventory management/stocking levels
  3. store layout
  4. checkout/paying for purchases
  5. among other things.

It is easy to understand how a business owner can begin to slide down the slippery slope if s/he becomes too insular in view and thinking and fails to recognize the changes as they occur.  A good business continues to evolve and respond to the changes it encounters.  Or, one can slowly become an appetizer for a competitor who is turning up the heat on the business and is primed to acquire sizable chunks of market share!

David Zahn