Signs of Failure

How did this happen?

Suddenly, without warning?  Or were there warning signs that we ignored?

For the past few weeks, and even months, many of us in Texas have experienced a continued barrage of heavy rainstorms.  Virtually overnight, we’ve gone from living in long-term drought conditions to living in flood-prone conditions.

Flood warnings have become so prevalent that they no longer grab our attention.

Then, one morning, we wake up to this scene.

Overnight, we’ve lost the ability to go forth.

Dead in the Water

In the life of our firm, we could wake up one day in this situation.

We will ask ourselves, how did we get to this point?  Did the world around us change while we were busy working?  Were we not paying attention to early signs?

Or, perhaps we just didn’t really think this could happen to us.

As firm managers, we never have the luxury of assuming that present-day success or stability is a long-term condition.  We must be always on the watch for change, as well as for opportunity.

As we’ve discussed before, it is our duty.

Looking for Signs

There are several ways in which we may be surprised to find ourselves in failure mode.

1. We may be too busy to know exactly where we stand.

Changes in technology, in our business markets, or in the economy at large, can overtake us quickly.  We’ve got to get our work done, but we must also have one eye on the world around us.  This can be particularly challenging for smaller firms.

2. We may not know where our firm is, or should be, headed.

Do we have a strategy for success, or are we just making hay while the sun shines, and hunkering down when it doesn’t?  We must grasp what is happening at all times in our markets, in our clientele, and in our staff.  And we must continually project our finances and cash flow for the coming months.

3. We may not have the courage to take corrective action.

Are we reluctant to sound the alarm and get everyone’s attention?  We must not be afraid of shaking things up, or of appearing negative when all seems well.  The firm’s well-being is at stake, and our staff want us to be in charge.

4. We may not be nimble enough to take action soon enough. 

Does our culture make it difficult to make fast decisions and execute them immediately, before danger approaches?  The world is changing quickly, and we must keep up.  Move the obstacles aside, and ignore the naysayers.

5. We may prefer to just wait out difficult times, and hope for the best. 

If we are profitable, and are continuing to generate new business consistently, then this might be a viable option.  Otherwise, it is potentially negligent.  Be sure you know why waiting would be acceptable.

On the Lookout

Even in the best of times, we can be caught by surprise.  But that is no defense if it could have been avoided.

Heed the warnings.  Stay alert.

And may we all go forth and prosper.



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