Businesses, like any living organism, are conceived, they grow, they flourish, wane and ultimately die. Well, most of them follow this pattern. The more successful their creators are the longer they will survive, but that survival usually comes at a cost: in some cases the sheer perceived importance of a business will prevent it from disappearing: it creates lots of jobs, it is an important part of the country’s GDP, their directors or owners are influential people in society and politics, or the products have achieved desirable status that defines their value rather than their actual usefulness or superiority.
For now, let’s consider the smaller kind of business, the one you or I would be running: a small one with just a handful of collaborators or maybe even just ourselves at the reins, guiding the ship on our own. Those kinds of business usually follow the pattern outlined above, and they depend on our ingenuity, capability and stubbornness to a large degree. Our kind of business relies on being adaptable, open to change, and we, the owners, have to show the same qualities.
If your business has found a niche that allows you to have regular customers, find or be found by new customers on a regular basis, and over a long period of time have managed to do your trade or business without problems, you are doing well. However, this situation might have a side effect that could ultimately be your downfall: you rely on the business and customer base remaining the same. What if someone has an idea that renders your business less useful, less profitable? After years and years of doing the same thing, you may not be flexible enough anymore to adapt to this new, changed environment.
The lesson here is to stay open and innovate where possible, and not to wait for innovation to become necessary. Keeping your mind open to options and actively considering them will ultimately be your best option.
If you are the kind of business person whose mind buzzes with new ideas all the time, and you ache to implement them, you might find it hard to maintain a business that does NOT change all the time. Change being good, it can be hard to keep your customer base on board if the situation changes all the time, new systems come online on a regular basis, and their affiliation with your business has to be reassessed whenever you change things around.
Ideas need time to develop and settle, and sometimes it turns out that they might not be as brilliant as they appeared to be when they first arrived. NOT bringing new ideas to the table right away and rather give them time to grow and develop could be a better move than constantly dazzle and rearrange your business. The trick is to keep a balance: be innovative enough to stay ahead of the curve, but not so innovative as to frighten your customers/clients away for lack of stability.
This brings us to the crux of the matter: too many ideas can be a good things, as it gives you a chance to constantly gauge your business against those new ideas and keep you on your toes where it comes to change. However, the real question is: if you are open to change at all times, is that limited to adding new things, or are you open to drop the dead donkey when the times has come?
Ideas – like businesses – have a life cycle, and sometimes you’ll find that an idea has outlived its usefulness, or a business has ground to a standstill and just keeps going on momentum rather than actual interest or excitement. Can you tell when that business or idea need to be done with?
Those ideas and businesses are our brain children, and we care for them to a point of not seeing the obvious when it is clear to everyone else that things are not quite the way you think they are going. Letting go of an idea can be as hard, if not harder, as letting go of a physical item. Ideas tend to stick to the mind and draw you in, especially if they have been around for a long time and formed a large part of your life and work. Besides, letting go of a business or idea has a very visceral element to it: if you need to let go, does it feel like “giving up” or is it rather a feeling of “understanding that the time has come”?
The trick here is to understand that both of those are valid options and really amount to the same thing on a purely practical level: you let go of something that does not work anymore. However, it is up to you to decide if you “give up” which implies that you have are still in fighting mode and really cannot let go in your soul, or if you “understand” which means that the fight is over and you have accepted that this is part of the past and you are NOW moving on.
You reaction is partly a result of your internal processes: if you are generally a fighter you might have fought for something that has been long dead because you simply can’t accept failure in general; if you are more of a pragmatist you might have been fighting for a while and then understood that it’s not worth it any longer. Of course, both sides are valid avenues, but only one of them allows you to actually move on and get going with another idea: the pragmatic approach.
The thing is: both Ms. BuzzyBrain and Mr. Regular can fall in either of those above categories. Mr. Regular will in general be opposed to letting go and embracing change, but might be more pragmatic in his approach, while Ms. BuzzyBrain might be more open to change, but feel the need to try other avenues for too long.
In the end, whichever way you go, the choice between “giving up” or “accepting” is ultimately yours to make, and whichever place you are coming from, both avenues are open to you. It would be in your own best interest to pick the one that prepares you for the future, accept the lesson you have learned from this idea or business, let it go and move on.
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Some pertinent ideas from the 'old office dog' who has seen it all, to help clear away the mess in your office.
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My name is Tilo Flache and it is my mission to help my clients organise and declutter their work spaces.