You Can’t Coast Uphill

In 2004, with a heart for people and over $60,000.00 invested, Mike opened his doors for business. A franchise in an up and coming industry, which he had studied, researched and believed in, whole heartedly.

There were no other businesses like his in the area which made getting clients somewhat easy. He began filling a need and the marketplace overwhelmingly responded in his favor. He did well. In a short amount of time, the old adage of “low hanging fruit” certainly held true and he picked away.

Business was plentiful and he continued to grow with only a medium amount of effort. He was serving a demographic where the need was substantial. It was a win-win situation and only several years later, Mike found himself reaping the fruits of his labor, risk and investment.

After some time, Mike slid into a comfort zone. He was making a decent living and his staff had learned their jobs well enough, they could keep things afloat without him being there. In return, he created some free time for himself. He reached a level of success most business owners desire and work toward. He wasn’t rich by any means, just very comfortable. He had time and money.

During the next seven years, similar businesses entered the industry. They were hungry, driven and ambitious to grab some of the market. Although Mike already had a moderate level of success, it didn’t take him long to see what was happening.

He needed a marketing / sales person and knew well, he was neither. Because of my qualifications, skill sets and mutual friends, I was chosen to help the business grow and take it to the next level. He communicated to me that over the next few years, we should be able to double, maybe even triple in size. So, I created a mini business plan of how we could get there. He loved it and was on board. At least that’s what he said.

Over the next 5 months, I brought a handful of ideas that complimented the mini plan, all of them aimed at growth. Several required little to no financial investment while the others required a modest amount. All very realistic and manageable.

Mike turned down every idea I brought forth. Though I wish I could say he had legitimate reasons, he did not. Later, I learned they were simply excuses to keep from having to take action on the change that was needed to get the different results. Mike did not want to leave the comfort zone he had become so familiar with. He said he wanted growth, but his actions clearly spoke otherwise.

Mike was in full coast mode and the only time you can coast, is downhill.

His comfort zone had become his worst enemy, it was enabling him. The feeling of leaving that place to move into a new place, one he was not familiar with, was too much. His competitors were growing but he wasn’t and neither was his business. In fact, not only was he not growing, he was falling behind.

I like Mike. He was one of the most generous employers I have ever worked for. In the community, he is known as one of the nicest guys around but from a business owner’s perspective, he had fallen into a dangerous place: complacency.

Sure he was making a decent living. Sure he was serving people who needed it and sure, he was providing jobs, but he had lost his edge. The whole reason he started his own business in the first place. He wanted to create his own financial plan on his terms. To have something to sell one day for retirement. What he didn’t realize was that he had traded these foundational ideas for a level of complacency.

As a business owner, Mike confirmed what can happen when one becomes closed to change. He is a prime example of what can happen when we spend too much time in our comfort zone. These were things I knew to always be aware of but to see them happen right in front of me, was a big dose of reality.

In business, there is no such thing as coasting. Your competitors simply won’t allow it. They will pass you by, leaving you wondering what just happened.

Don’t misread this message. I am not beating up on Mike. Like I said, he is a great guy and I will always be grateful for the opportunity he gave me. But this is a perfect example of what can happen if you try to coast, too long, too often.

Sadly enough, several years later, he is still at the same volume of business as when I left. Maybe even less. Not because there are not enough clients to go around. But rather, a reflection of where his head is at and how resistant he is to change.

Have a fantastic week, be blessed.

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