Successful and Sustainable? You Can Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

"Sailing"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover. –Mark Twain


Excellent products and services? Check! Customer service, spot on? Check! Cash flow good, expenses managed? Check! Sustainably successful business? Not so fast!

Just because you have all those ducks lined up, do you really think that success will last? A lot of miserable failures thought so. There is far more to sustainable success than meeting the 'status quo of the many' and if you don't pay close attention, you might find out that good things don't always last.

At the surface, the indicators forecast smooth sailing ahead. The "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude prevails. But lurking under the radar is a formidable tide that threatens to topple the sails and send your business into an unrecoverable slide. Employee dissatisfaction, unrealistic goals, poor communication and untimely reporting of key information are but a few of the possible causes. There are times when you have to rely upon more than the usual metrics to ensure that smooth seas and prevailing winds remain with you. Here are two easy to employ means to keep good things on the right track, for a long time.

Trust Your' Gut

If it doesn't feel right, figure out why. An inkling that something is not right is often the first, if not only evidence of an evolving or existing problem. Take for example a faulty fuel gauge; as your car chugs to a halt you cannot help but to wonder what's going on. You still have more than a quarter tank of fuel left but the "reliable" indicator is not so reliable after all. If only you had listened to that niggling thought about how your gas mileage seems to have risen dramatically since filling up the tank 2 weeks ago.

Instinct matters in business; the time it takes to check out that concern, even when all indicators tell you to relax, is worth the effort. Big problems can evolve in subtle ways. If you sense them, seek them out and then act on them.

Eyes and Ears- Lots of Them

Keeping your eyes and ears open is important, but enlisting the eyes and ears around you is essential. Think of your employees, customers, vendors and affiliates as extensions of your eyes and ears. Engage them in the process of watching out for opportunity for improvement and for emerging problems. Why involve so many? Have you ever heard of "the forest for the trees"? The more eyes and ears on, the better the information and the more effective the early warning system will be. We're talking about keeping a successful business going here. It's worth it! Just one thing, if you invite folks to watch out for you, you have to listen to what they have to say too.

In the words of Mark Twain, "throw off the bowlines"; there is more to success than the comfort of the safe harbor and the experiences that worked for others before you. Catch those trade winds in your sails; don't be afraid to explore, dream and discover. At the same time, be ever attentive to the little things so that there is a never ending sail ahead of you.

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