The Problem with Success

Successful businesses sometimes start with a sole purpose and grow into a powerhouse based on that singularity of thought. That’s rare. What occurs with far more regularity is the company feels its way through its various stages of development and ends up at a point they never envisioned. Successful yes, but far different than their original purpose.

If you keep working at your business and put aside immediate profits for the sake of future success, you can be reasonably confident that sooner or later you will find your niche. The problem is, once your niche becomes your success you will stop looking for new ways, new innovations, new paths, because your success will speak for itself.

This happens to many companies. They achieve market success and ride it for three to five years. Then the market changes and they lose their successful position because they stop innovating. Ironically, this occurs because their success made them too busy for innovation.

This is because any business that has achieved a level of success eventually is going to stop thinking about new strategies and start thinking about how to maintain the business that they have.

This brings us to a basic principle: Busy-ness should never be confused with business.

When reviewing market research projects our firm has done over the past three years, we have observed companies that often say, “Our success is because of our commitment to quality.”

This usually has nothing to do with their success.

During one engagement a firm thought its innovative design work was driving their firm’s sustainability. Our market assessment of their firm showed it was their personal touch in customer service that was sustaining the firm and in fact, their design work wasn’t that highly regarded. How could this be?

When the hallways are filled with people busily moving through them and the phones are ringing constantly, it’s easy to think your company has arrived. But what if all of this activity is the tail end of the innovation you have already developed? What if what you’re really doing is completing assignments and not laying the foundation for future victories?

Tom Marin is the managing partner of and provides corporate and brand strategy to organizations of all sizes. He has an extensive background in the graphic arts, printing, publishing and media industries. Marin is an accredited member of the national and international chapters of the Business Marketing Assn., is a (CBC) certified business communicator and a past marketing chair of the Chicago chapter.

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