18/04/2012 - 10:36

Be wary of slipping into comfort zone

18/04/2012 - 10:36


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When a business is doing well, owners and managers can sometimes lapse into feeling too comfortable.

When a business is doing well, owners and managers can sometimes lapse into feeling too comfortable.

This can be a dangerous state, in business terms.

Owners and managers can easily take their eyes off the ball and a lack of focus on the marketplace can quickly result in lost opportunities and give an edge to competitors.

A few years ago, a client I was coaching admitted she was feeling a lot more confident and comfortable than when she and her husband started the business.

They had a right to feel some sense of satisfaction – their staff numbers had increased, they had bought the business premises and their operation had grown substantially.

But I told them I was alarmed by their response. Over the previous couple of years, they had stepped out of their comfort zone, taken on new concepts and implemented processes that were new to them. 

It was only that feeling of ‘stepping off the cliff’ that allowed them to learn and grow, both as business owners and as individuals.

I pointed out that no meaningful learning of anything took place inside one’s comfort zone.

This is the space somewhere between anxiety and boredom. In fact, it’s often been said that it is in this space that creativity flourishes and there has been considerable psychological research into the subject.  

While it is tempting to take it easy as revenues grow and profits increase, with the result that your personal income increases and your asset base grows with it, this is just the time to get uncomfortable again. 

This is the time to review your goals, create a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal, to steal from Jim Collins (www.jimcollins.com) and take the next step in your business and personal growth.

Furthermore, it’s not a matter of learning for the sake of learning. 

It has long been my contention that owning a business should be a means to an end and not necessarily an end in itself. 

So, why not make the most of the fascinating journey? To make the journey just that – fascinating – there is much to learn about human behaviour, business resources, management techniques, customer relationships and all that makes up a “business”. 

All these can ensure the business operates more effectively. At the same time, you are learning something new. 

If you continually draw from the many fantastic business management, marketing and motivational books, blogs and other material, the move will not be so hard. 

If this is not your habit, make it one. There are a number of sites that do the research for you and make recommendations.

Verne Harnish, who writes a syndicated column for WA Business News, is an invaluable resource. Go to www.gazelles.com and sign up for his highly informative weekly newsletter “Verne’s Insights”.

And if these learning activities have not been a part of your regime, just one book that has a vaguely interesting subject matter can be the start of a whole new appreciation of the potential for your business. 

On the other hand, if learning and reading about business are activities you undertake on a regular basis, why not take it to the next step? 

Question yourself deeply about what has been learned. What can I implement from this material? How do I go about it? Who should be involved?  

This can result in a whole new meaning for you – and for your business. Be ready to be taken to the next level of business management and to have your eyes opened to endless opportunities.

However, also be ready to be taken way outside your comfort zone.


John Matthew is owner of management consultancy Switch – Directions for Business.


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