May 20, 2007 Leave a comment
Most people are familiar with the fairy tale of Snow White. In this story, her beautiful, yet vain step-mother queen had a magic mirror, which could answer the questions that she asked of it. Of course, the most well-known question that she would ask was, “Mirror, mirror upon the wall, who is the fairest of all?” Initially, the mirror would tell her that she was. However, as time went on Snow White became more beautiful and the mirror began to answer that she was more beautiful than the queen. Of course, as many of these stories go, the jealous queen became furious and wanted to kill Snow White.
How does this story relate to entrepreneurs and leaders? Business is a never-ending life and death cycle. You must embrace the fact that as good as you might be today, eventually there will come along someone else who is a little bit better. Their product might be a little bit cheaper, higher quality, easier to use, more customized, faster, etc. Regardless, if you aren’t continually getting better your business will eventually die. The moment you think that you have “arrived” (i.e., I’m the best and can’t get much better) is the moment that you start to decline.
The fact is many companies that existed 10 or 20 years ago are not around today, with some having had their customers taken by start-up businesses. And many of those who are still around have business models that are much different than what they had before. Your customers’ needs and desires are not stagnant, so you as a business owner can’t be stagnant with enhancing your product quality and features, customer service, and professional skills.
The truth is the quality of your work product reflects your character. Your product or service is an extension of who you are. So, people aren’t just buying your product, they’re buying into you. They’re buying into your vision, values, and goals. Based on the way many businesses are run today, your character can be a competitive advantage. Therefore, your personal development is just as important as your professional development, if not more.
You must be willing to ask yourself hard questions. When your competition starts encroaching on your customers and they start leaving for something or someone else, like the evil queen in the story, do you think of ways to “take out” or undercut your competition? Or do you think of ways that you can get better at what you do? Are you providing the absolute best quality to your customers or are you cutting corners? Are you investing the time to become an expert in your craft or are you coasting?
Those who experience long-term success embrace a continuous improvement mindset. They understand that if they want to maintain success, they don’t have time to rest on yesterday’s successes or today’s accolades. Successful people view their past and present experiences as building blocks not a plateau.
Every day you must be willing to look in the mirror to assess the good, the bad, the indifferent, and then go work on yourself. The pursuit of personal and professional development is a race that never ends. As the African proverb states, “It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better start running!”
Paul Wilson, Jr.