Are you a settler?

I love the new “Settler” commercials from Direct TV. The commercials have caused me to consider the possibility that there are small business “settlers”. Business operators that continue to do business as they always have. Unwilling to change. Set in their ways. Possibly accepting less than optimal results.

Here are several examples:

  • Profitability. Are you “settling” for marginal profitability in your company? Maybe because it’s always been that way or that it may be an industry norm? Vern Harnish in his new best-selling book “Scaling Up” suggests that a 25% net profit should be the goal for all growth companies.
  • Talent. Are you “settling” for less than A players? Superstars. I believe many business owners have convinced themselves that the best talent are taken and that they must accept B & C players on their team. Rubbish! There is plenty of great talent available to your business. Are you looking in the right places? Fishing in deep enough waters?
  • Collections. Easy to “settle” for slow collection terms from even our best clients sometimes. This may cause a dramatic effect on your cash flow. Have you considered alternative collection strategies? Early payment discount? Late payment fee? Electronic payments?
  • Innovation. Is your business operating as it always has? “Settling” for what you have always done? When was the last time you attempted to innovate your design workflow. Look for efficiencies. Streamline processes. Eliminate waste. Outsource. Go lean.
  • Vendors. Are you still using the same vendors or suppliers you always have. “Settling” for what you always have gotten from them before. Sometimes it’s a healthy exercise to shop your vendors. Look at new and different options. Avoid complacency in your sourcing practices.
  • Disruption. Sometimes I believe we “settle” to avoid disruption in our business. Avoid commotion. Keep everything simple. And yet we know a certain level of disruption can be very healthy in any business. Keep your people and your competitors on their toes. Try asking the following question at your next team meeting: “What are we prepared to stop doing?”
  • Fighting Goliath. Many of us are up against a much larger competitor. A “Goliath”. It’s easy to “settle” into a mindset that we can’t win that competitive battle. Malcolm Gladwell suggests in his book, “David vs. Goliath”, that Goliath wins on average 70% of the time. Furthermore, he reports that those odds change dramatically in our favor when we are willing to surprise our large competitor with a new strategy just as David did when he fought Goliath.
  • Cash. Are you “settling” for having just enough cash to run your business. Living on the edge? Jim Collins found in his best-selling book, “Good To Great”, that the best companies carried 5-10x more cash on their balance sheet as average companies. In a good economy, like now, it’s a great time to be accumulating cash. When the economy softens, as it always does, you will want to be ready to buy.
  • Happiness. Are you “settling” for being just okay in life in general? Some days better than others. Accepting the idea that happiness is not in your cards? I strongly believe that your happiness is the number one driver of success in small business. Dr. Shawn Achor in his very popular TED talk and book suggests daily meditation, daily exercise, random acts of kindness, journaling, and expressing gratitude as the keys to happiness.

Action item? Stop “settling” in your business today. Show the commercial to your executive team this week and ask them: “What are we settling for in this business today?”.