Top Four Reasons for Failure

There are millions of companies in the world. Most fall far short of the owners’ ambitions. You would think they fail or frustrate for millions of reasons. But there are really only a few reasons for utter failure. I don’t believe you should allow them to take a toll on your business. Each can be placed in the crosshairs and corrected.

I’ve narrowed down the following four reasons for failure and how to avoid them:

1.  Rudderless Leadership: What do I mean by this? Well, there is likely a person with the title of president or chief executive in your business, but titles cannot run companies. All too often, the person with the title and the corner office to go with it, lacks the vision, the courage, or both to make the difficult decisions that are always required to keep the company on strategy.

Instead of serving as true leaders, they engage in “followership.” Just this week, I sat in on a client management meeting during which the president of the company told her team that she wanted “buy in” from the team before putting a strategy in place.

Do you think Steve Jobs sat in his bed wrestling with the idea, the hope, that we could secure “buy in” for the iPhone? Absolutely not. Jobs was determined to bring the technology to market and anyone who stood in his way would not have a place at Apple.

Leaders must lead.

2. The Lust To Lax Syndrome: We all know the drill. In fact, we all know it too well. A potential customer appears before our eyes and we lust after them to land their business. We may offer discounts, create all manner of Power Points, hold lavish dinners and the like, but whatever combination of romantic tools we apply, we are determined to give the object of our lust everything they may want to succumb to our courtship.

And then the dream turns to reality, we hit pay dirt, and all of the lust turns to lax. We dump the prospect into the customer file, assign them a number, conduct a transaction and move on to sweet talk the next object of desire.

How should a company keep the lust alive after the win occurs? Treat the customer as family.

3.  Complacency: Just when it appears as if a business has broken the code, entered a period of non-stop growth, defied the odds and found a way to move along a continuously upward trajectory, real life (call it gravity) rears its ugly head.

The truth is (although no one wants to admit it), when the company’s growth seems so strong and certain that it can go on autopilot, management relaxes its reign on both the strategy and the execution of it, allowing a once-closely directed business to float. In the vacuum this creates, complacency takes hold.  Everyone internally is absolved of responsibility and freed from the need to address the real issues and to find meaningful ways to turn the company around.

4.  Conventional Thinking:

So much of the business textbook, so to speak, is ruled by conventional thinking. Think of this as a set of rules and beliefs passed along through the generations that have stuck in spite of the fact that they have little value or may be destructive.

Consider the widely held belief in the 80/20 rule. In one application, this holds that 20 percent of a company’s salespeople will always account for 80 percent of its sales. Well, this may often be true, but we should not accept it as the gospel for a moment.

Why? Think about it: you are then accepting the “law” that 80 percent of your salespeople are failures kept on the payroll to validate, yes, the 80/20 rule (which should be renamed the 80/20 myth).

The looming question is…..Are you ready to declare war?