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Edition 391 – Gradual Improvement

It’s been a great year for working with some really interesting clients. Some of them have come via referral from others in my orbit. Others have come as a result of the fact that we’ve worked together previously. Each of them have been absorbing, not only in what their needs are, but who they are as individuals. It’s a pleasure and an honour to be invited inside of these family businesses and, by extension, these families.

In one of the sessions I was conducting with one of these family businesses recently, I asked the story of the business. It’s funny, as most people either don’t think they have a story to tell, or if they do, they’re quite shy about articulating it.

For me, from the outside looking in, this business is a 40 year success story for four main reasons:

  1. They’re doing what they love doing, which is making stuff, including new stuff of their own design.
  2. They’re not flashy, in that there’s no trappings of wealth on display. They’re modest in how they show themselves to the world.
  3. There’s a very strong family bond at play, amongst siblings and the generations.
  4. They’ve focussed on evolution, not revolution, in terms of the what they do, the product they manufacture and how they take it to market.

It’s my belief that no major transformation happens overnight. If you are looking to transform your business, and your pathway is too rapid, it doesn’t stick and it creates consequences elsewhere. When I was having a conversation with the Managing Director of this business about this philosophy, he was nodding his head furiously, believing that gradual improvement is what has sustained the business over four decades.

Any improvement in your business has to be gradual. Otherwise, you won’t have the buy-in of your key resource, your people, to successfully carry it through. If you make too many changes, too quickly, you will spook your team! When they think about the “why” of your decision, invariably, one of the answers they’ll ponder is that you’re looking to change their job, move them on, or both.

Similarly, whenever I’ve seen a family business in the past engage in a desire for rapid transformation, the clients, almost always, are let down as a result of the fact that you’ve over-promised, yet under-delivered. As the great motor racing champion Dick Johnson once opined about some regulation changes he was seeking for his Ford Falcon in the mid ‘80’s from CAMS, Australian motor sport’s then governing body, “they promised the world and delivered an atlas”. You don’t want to be delivering atlases!

To bring your people, your clients and yourself along on the journey, it’s all about evolution, not revolution. In an era when sustainability has become a buzz word for so much in our lives, it’s also the mantra for the success of so many small and family businesses. Growth will only occur, and improvement will only take place, when it is sustainable for all parties at the table.

This Week’s Tip

Too many lightbulb moments from business owners over the years have cost money, time and reputation when the big change, or the rapid transformation, can’t deliver.