“Be yourself – not your idea of what you think somebody else’s idea of yourself should be.” – Henry David Thoreau
I like that quote. I wish I had a way of measuring how much time we spend in our businesses and our lives trying to do things only because we think other people think we should do them. How much time do we spend trying to be something because it’s what we’re “supposed” to be?
A couple of business owners I know have had strategy sessions lately around where they think growth will be coming from over the next 3-5 years. The first one told me that they spent a lot of time discussing where the rest of the industry was going. They had a few ideas, but mostly they repeated what some of their competitors are doing and decided they just wanted to copy them. The problem is that what most of their competitors are doing involves some resources & abilities that really don’t fit who they are. When I challenged him, his response was simply, “What else can we do? This is what companies in our industry do.”
The other strategy session was different. There was some time spent on competitors and industry trends, but it was a relatively small portion of the session. Much more time was spent on their company’s specific strengths, weaknesses, opportunities & threats (SWOT). Then they used the SWOT items to generate their action plans. In other words, they figured out who they were, and then used that understanding to figure out the best growth plan for them. What they’re going to do is pretty unique for their industry, but based on the resources & abilities they have, it’s a good fit.
The point is this – just because your competitors are doing something, or just because you read somewhere what the “right” growth plan is, doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Think about what you and your people uniquely bring to the table. How do those things fit what your customers demand now and will demand in the future? What’s the best way to take advantage of where those things overlap?
You’ll never be great trying to be someone else, and you won’t have much fun either. Figure out who you are as a business, then use that understanding to decide what your growth should look like. What will you do to grow? What will you not do to grow? When you understand those kinds of things about yourself, the path to growth gets a lot clearer – and a lot more fun to follow.