A torturous question that owners ask themselves all the time is, “Is it harder to get good or to stay good?”
The short answer is….it depends.
What does it depend on? Typically, how willing an owner is to make real change in the way they do business, how they think and conduct themselves and how committed they are to operating a successful business.
What else does it depend on? The owner’s ability to fight off the pull of inertia.
That means there’s a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged.
Example: “bureaucratic inertia”.
Didn’t mean to turn this into a science class so all I mean is it’s often easier to work hard and get a company turned around than it is to keep practicing the hard disciplines it takes to keep it turned around and getting better.
Here’s what I know: a company is either getting better or it’s getting worse. The one thing it’s rarely if ever doing is staying the same. The owner is usually the last to know they’re getting off track because the slippage typically doesn’t happen overnight. Also know that the pull to go back to the old status quo is never ceasing. It takes as much effort to stay good or get to the next level as it takes to get to good.
I’ve worked with a number of clients over a long period of time and have watched this happen in the real world in real time. We worked hard to gain control of a chaotic situation and achieve less stress and more success. Then, we part and sometimes the wheels begin to come off as can happen to anyone. We choose to get back together to get things tuned-up or do next level work and what we start with reveals that some systems that were put in place are now kind of in place. Don’t get me wrong…they are still really good but inertia is powerful.
The telltale signs that things can be sliding are:
- Structured meetings become haphazard run or used as they were designed for.
- Manuals and systems are periodically used, not used as designed or forgotten.
- Owners are less in touch with the day-to-day operations.
The good news is when I’ve re-entered a company I’ve worked with before the owner and the team is motivated to get back to or exceed their prior level. And what they find is the work is far easier and far faster than before. Compare that with a company that has never implemented sound business practices and is still busy thrashing about in every way but the right way.
Good habits are tough to get into place. Good habits are even tougher to keep in place. Good habits can be put back into place in an instant with commitment.
Many years ago, I worked with a great contractor who after we had turned the company around said to me one day, “I knew I had to go through a set of doors to get this company to where I wanted to go. It was hard work but work I knew I needed to do.
What I thought was when I went through those doors I’d be done. What I now realize there were more doors than I knew existed. The difference is these next set of doors are far easier to go through and a whole lot much more fun than the first ones.”
A journey begins with the first step. So, get started. If you don’t know how to move along the journey or you’ve lost your way, find an experienced trail guide to help you.
Remember, it’s okay to rest on a plateau for a little while but ever mindful that you can’t remain there for long without really slipping backwards.