How to Avoid Being a Shooting Star Company

My wife and I were walking around our neighborhood in Brooklyn this weekend.  She wanted to get a new pair of eyeglasses.  In one store we thought that looked good, she found a pair she liked.

When we started talking pricing with various features the clerk asked if she had insurance.  My wife explained this would be an out-of-pocket purchase.

The clerk then said in that case the glasses would be $100 cheaper. We walked out.

Legal?  In New York, yes.  Right?  No.

And while this might be a blatant example of our broken health care system in the US, it represents a much bigger problem.  According to World Health Organization’s report in 2000, the US ranked 37th in health care quality… far behind countries like Colombia, Iceland and Cyprus.  In fact, America consistently ranks last in quality of health care compared to other “advanced” countries, according to the New York Times.

Yet it is the perception of many American that we have the best health care in the world.  And health care is by far not the only thing we think we are the best at!

Whether these perceptions are true or not, by just thinking you’re the best makes it difficult to stay the best.  Just ask any top athlete who stays at the top of their game over time:  Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Roger Federer and so on.

In business it is the same thing.

Complacency and arrogance breed ignorance.  All three combined breed lethargy.  And in business, especially in this economy, lethargy is the kiss of death.  Companies that grow quickly in the beginning only to crash when they become lethargic are what I call shooting stars.

Shooting star companies are a dime a dozen.

No matter where you are in the life cycle of your company:  idea, start-up, growth, high-growth, mature, or decline, it is crucial to keep your edge.

Five key ways to keep your edge in business:

  • Stay Lean— at all times, especially when business is strong.  It is so easy to get complacent and lethargic when things are doing well;
  • Stay Fit— constantly looking to refine your training, education, R&D, and new products/services
  • Stay Young—bring in fresh ideas, talent and energy.  This energy will attract more of it.  It becomes contagious and others want to be involved with your company.
  • Stay Aware—know what your competition is doing… at all times.  Make sure you position yourself as different, better or more successful.
  • Stay Hungry—a mantra for your business can be: what’s next?  When you are passionate about what you do, you will always look for ways to do and achieve more.  Tap into this passion.  If it is not there, find it.

Keeping your edge is important if you want to be and stay the best.  Just know it takes work and consistency.  It also takes passion.

It is very hard to do this without passion.  In fact, it is almost impossible.

If this eyeglass place my wife and I visited over the weekend focused on competing and positioning themselves where discounting to out-of-pocket customers became unnecessary, it would not only ramp up sales dramatically, they would also not be contributing to the health care problem.

Instead, they would be part of the solution.

Action Steps for the Week:

How long have you been in business?  If you have been in business more than three years make sure you’ve done the following:

  • Energy review—how are you feeling about biz?  Excited?  Passionate?  If no, find the passion before anything else.  Without it, you’ll be spinning your wheels.
  • Team review—you guys old and slow or young and lean?  I don’t mean in years, but in heart and soul.  Makes more difference than you can imagine.
  • Competition review—know your primary and secondary competition.   What is your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) compared to them?
  • Technology review—whether you are service or product based, ramp up your technology.  Doing webinars, pod casts, video casts, social media?  Good place to start looking.

After your review, it will become clear where you should be spending your time and where to ramp up now.  Start with the lower hanging fruit first.  Work on the areas that need the most amount of attention that address the most important components of you business first.

Lastly, commit to an annual review of these areas to make sure you stay young, lean and passionate.