Complacency is one of the most significant growth killers of small businesses. Why then do so many business owners fall into its malicious embrace? After all, if they had been complacent to start with, one would imagine they wouldn't have started a business at all.
The truth is that even mild success can make any business owner complacent. It is easy to rest on your laurels after all your hard work finally starts to pay off. However, we're here to tell you this is the exact opposite of what you need to be doing!
Join us today as we go over the dangers of complacency and how to keep up without burning out. We'll offer some useful tips to stay competitive and use any extra time or funding in meaningful ways, rather than just sitting idle (as far too many businesses wind up doing).
How Complacency Hurts Small Businesses
A quick review of any solid guide on common small business mistakes will show you how much can quickly go sideways if you decide to just "go with the flow" rather than remain active within your business decisions.
Every business, large or small, must be proactively ready to adapt to the market. Failure to adapt puts you in league with famous failures such as Blockbuster, Kodak, and Polaroid; Not the best companies to be associated with to be sure. Instead, you need to be doing research on markets, monitoring employee performance, and keeping an Eye of Sauron upon your competition at the very least.
Any variation of ‘That’s the way we have always done it’ is THE quintessential comment of a business owner on the pathway to failure. That sentence never fails to make me cringe when I’m with a client. There's ALWAYS something that can be improved. - Ryan, Out of the Box Advisors
Worse still, many entrepreneurs have a tendency to grow complacent early, when an enterprise is only starting to become profitable. That first taste of success can often cloud a small business owner’s judgement. In truth, if you’re doing it right your business never truly ‘makes it’. Again, we can’t stress this enough, you should always be improving. Complacency at this stage is, and this is being gentle, highly volatile as it's at a point when even tiny mistakes can still send your business in to ruin… By now the seriousness of complacency should be well set within your mind.
There are three main ways in which complacency damages businesses:
It causes you to ignore risks and pitfalls that being attentive would have otherwise caught
It causes you to ignore opportunities that would have allowed for growth
It causes you to leave money on the table through things like a lack of capacity or maybe arrogance
These scenarios mean, at best, you're not going to remain competitive. At worst, these mistakes could literally destroy your business.
1. Complacency: Tips for Avoiding Risks and Pitfalls
When you first started your business, it was likely because you witnessed some market opportunity. Even if you entered into a packed marketplace, pest control as an example, you probably had a thought similar to ‘I can do this far better than them.’ Otherwise you would not have invested so much blood, sweat, and tears to get this far.
Regardless of the actual reasoning, what you were actively doing was assessing the marketplace and filling a perceived need. The key here is to remember that whatever that need was that motivated you was, at the same time, a need that your competition either ignored or missed out of their own complacency. This cost them in the form of your business’ creation and a new competitor working against them.
Don’t make the same mistake they did!
Tip 1: Research Your Competition
Just about any source of expert entrepreneurial advice will tell you to research your competition, and for good reason. When they succeed, you can copy their tactics. When they fail, you can learn in order to avoid their mistakes. When they fail to adapt, you can capitalize on their sluggish choices.
Watch what the competition does. As a general rule, they'll keep doing what works and stop doing what doesn't. If they experience booming growth or especially if they go under, try to figure out why.
Emulate: As long as you’re not hijacking intellectual property or crossing any other obvious ethical lines, there is no reason to not copy your competition. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
Autopsy: If one of your competitors fails or pulls out of your local market then autopsy their choice. Did they see something that you might have missed? What choices led to their failure that you can learn from?
Adapt: Did a competitor innovate your industry in some way? Blockbuster with Netflix comes to mind. There was no ‘real’ reason Blockbuster could not have adapted to Netflix’s business model.