Who’s in your ear?

Aug 19, 2010

You probably don’t know everything you need to know in order to achieve long-term sustainable business growth for your company. That’s fine – neither do I. Nobody does. (If any one person was in possession of all the information relevant to growing their business, it would be instantly outdated by events in the marketplace.)

That means we all need to listen to other people. All the time. People who know things we don’t, who have seen things we haven’t, who have experienced before what we’re experiencing now – and will experience next.

And although business growth isn’t always about speed, sometimes you’ll want to grow your business faster than others – and at those times, we need to not only listen to others, we often need to put ourselves in their hands – to trust them to know the unfolding landscape better than we do, to be familiar with the twists and turns of what’s ahead, to tell us how fast and how hard we can take the next corner.

If you watch the video below even for just a few seconds, you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about:

(If you’re reading this in your RSS reader and cannot see the video below, click here to view it online.)

Sometimes this works well – see the nifty swish through the chicane at 1:14 – and sometimes not so well – see the bail out at about 5:00. Oftentimes in business the success in this relationship it comes down to who we’re listening to, and more importantly – when. Here are some of the more common voices we listen to at various stages of company growth:

Early Struggle: Banks, family, mentors.

Fun: Ourselves, customers, big dogs in the business.

Whitewater: The accountant, the ops manager, consultants.

Treadmill: ‘Big name’ consultants, other companies’ best practices.

The Big Rut: The voice of our glorious history, the echo chamber of middle management, a compliant board.

Death Rattle: The liquidation administrator or receiver.

Only in Predictable Success does senior management get the listening mix wholly right – instead of glomming on to any one source, it recognizes the need to match the voice to the need: Banks, family, mentors; ourselves, customers, big dogs; the accountant, the ops manager, consultants (big name or no) – even the voice of our glorious history: they all have a place, they all have a contribution to make, and problems only start to happen when we latch on to just one voice and ride it all the way to the inevitable crash (check out 5:00 into the video for a visual).

Who’s in your ear? For what reason? Who isn’t in your ear that should be?