It is surprising to me where we can learn our lessons around how to behave, build,
and interact in life. I want to draw an analogy between the way animals live their lives and how business is run and I think you will appreciate the parallels between their success and yours as a business owner.
Safe Does Not Equal Growth
Have you ever been driving down the road and you see a squirrel start to cross. When it sees your car it has no idea if it is safer to continue across the road or go back. Unfortunately for many squirrels they can remember the safety of the place they just came from but they cannot perceive the value of the risk of completing the cross. Often they are closer to the other side and will still make a dash back to the side they know is safe with the result of running under a car.
In business we are sometimes like squirrels. We are more comfortable making decisions that will result in us staying in a mode we are familiar and comfortable with. Taking risk sometimes means making a step towards the unknown. Once there, we may think, “why didn’t I do this sooner?”
Staying where it is safe will not get you change or growth, it will only get you more of what you have always had. To grow we have to look for that new path. Unlike a squirrel we can more easily predict our future path.
Break it down to one road crossing at a time and then the entire trek to somewhere new will become much easier. Worded another way; “Break down your big goals into one step at a time.” Completing each step will be easier than trying to jump right to the end goal. You have to know how to get to your destination to ensure you take on as little risk as possible.
OK, still on the road you see a crow standing in your path some yards in the distance. It has interest in whatever is on the road and has determined that it is safe enough to be where it is. Somehow the crow is able to judge the rate at which you are approaching in the car and without effort or anguish the crow steps to the side of the road so you can pass. They don’t even necessarily fly away. They know how to avoid your car by the minimum amount of distance as to reduce the amount of time they are away from their ‘road-treasure’.
In our businesses we need to know what types of risks we have. Doing and understanding your SWOT analysis will help you visualize the things that may occur in your business. Anticipating issues helps keep them in perspective so that you can avoid them with as little disruption to your business as possible.
While paddling across the water to enjoy the beauty of the Canadian Northern wilderness we came across beaver lodges. What was interesting was to see the holes that went into the lodge above the water level. Earlier in the season the water had been quite high and much of the area was flooded so the beavers had started their lodges at that level. But as the levels fell, so did the entrance to their homes. The lodge stretched down the bank until it was unreasonable to continue in the same lodge and then they would abandon it for a new location.
In business we often have to stretch our ideas, time, perseverance, attitude, and dollars to continue to do what needs to get done. At some point, after the change is too significant to continue with the same process we need to re-evaluate to determine if it is better to start over with something else or somewhere else.
Business is always changing. There is never a time when we should not be looking at what has to be done and where next to build. If a business is not growing it is dying. You must be looking at growth and change just to maintain the same level of profit. That said, if you want a significant level of change in your profit you need to look at a significant level of change in your business.
Competition can Change the Landscape
In Ontario we have recently seen a resurgence of a species of Cormorant that was nearly wiped out earlier in the 20th century. Given space the species has increased in numbers. Some would say too many, but others would applaud the gains they have made in their ancestors fishing grounds. The reduction in pesticide use and the fact that they are protected is credited to their return.
If you have ever crossed the Burlington Bay- James N Allen Skyway into Hamilton you will have witnessed this change. Once an empty, industrial bay of dark water it now is home to thousands of cormorants sitting in the small trees and shrubs along the side of the water’s edge. So many in fact, the trees look black.
What makes them so successful? They are experts as fishing in a way most other predators, besides humans, are capable of doing. So successful I’ve heard fishermen curse them because they are taking away their catch. Fishermen and cormorants are competitors for resources. Being an expert and focusing on their niche expertise has given them an edge.
In business you need to keep your eye on what is changing so you can successfully compete. As laws and behaviours change so do the needs of your client. If you are not following these changes then someone else will come in and take away your clients by meeting their needs in this newly created market.
Find your Niche
Why do we find mosquitoes almost everywhere in the world? Why are they so successful? There are over 3500 species around the world and there are surprisingly few predators. The greatest predators to this pest of humans are animals that live or have part of their life cycle in the waters where the mosquito larvae grow.
There are two successes here; one is that the mosquito focuses its life cycle on places where it has a lot of warm, standing pools of water. The second is the predictors that focus their eating niche on the abundance of this one prey.
In business you need to know what your company has as its expertise and then you have to focus on the client it can best help. Once you know exactly who you are targeting you can determine where you are going to find your client in the most concentration. The more focused you are, the easier it is to get more clients.
Recently I wrote a blog describing four words I though people should be careful using. There is one word I forgot to mention. If I could banish one word from the business person’s vocabulary it would be “everyone”. No one company can focus on helping everyone. You need to hone your message and your intent down to your specific target market, set your path, know your risks, keep building, manage change, so when asked, “who is your target market” the answer will never be “everyone”.