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The illusion of certainty

The lifetime customer, the iron-clad supplier, the legislated right to operate – it can all change at the stroke of a pen … or the start of a pandemic.

I had an interesting discussion with a prospect recently about starting or waiting.

He’s looking to double his significant mid-tier business over the next 3-5 years and he’d also like to significantly increase the profit margin to 20% rather than the current 10%.

Based on our initial review there are a number of levers that can be pulled to help achieve those goals. The size of the prize is significant, yet achievable and even at this early stage, we know many of the pieces of the puzzle to get there.

And yet … he’s waiting for more clarity and certainty. He’s waiting for ‘the right time’.

I expect he’s not alone. We’ve had a challenging 12 months. Many of the things we may have thought were ‘certainties’ have not turned out that way at all.

But in reality, is it just this past year? Or has it always been this way?

Out of mental convenience, do we tell ourselves things will be clearer if we wait? Will a little more digging reveal the truth?

What often stops us from moving forward or making changes is the ‘illusion of certainty’.

The lifetime customer, the iron-clad supplier, the legislated right to operate – it can all change at the stroke of a pen … or the start of a pandemic.

As I shared with this business owner, certainty is an illusion. If you’re trying to improve performance and drive growth, you can’t just stand still.

Here’s the way my clients tackle this process, with my coaching guidance.

  1. Be clear on your beliefs.

When plenty else can shift, it’s really valuable to have a foundation of rock solid beliefs: your purpose, values and vision.

  1. Have a tight strategy.

Be really clear about the brand promise to your core customers; where trends are going; the competencies you have to deliver real and distinct value, and the business model to do it.

  1. Get the right people.

Have a structured approach to getting the right people in the right seats. Truly capable people who share your belief system will solve most things. Do you have your A-Players?

  1. Adopt solid execution disciplines.

Understand the metrics that define success, the priority activities that will deliver them, who is accountable and a regular rhythm for checking in.

  1. Build profitability.

Get operationally effective at what you already do. Free up some cash to back your next set of ideas. Companies with no cash end up taking no risks or big risks.

Against this backdrop, my clients can keep moving forward with balanced confidence and combat the desire to ‘wait and see’.

Here’s an example from last week. Two clients, in completely different industries and geographies, recently agreed to push their sales effort into new regions.

At their Quarterly Reviews, one executive reported the initiative had been a great success (and they’re now looking at loading up on the idea) whilst in the other company, the bullet they fired hit nothing.

But both CEOs were happy. They’d placed a sensible bet. While one is now polishing up a cannonball to fire, the other is considering where to aim his next bullet.

The point? They had no real clarity or certainty. They just placed sensible bets based on a clear strategy, confidence in the quality of their team, a rigorous approach to execution and had enough cash to bet in the first place.

Are you succumbing to the illusion of certainty, or paralysed by the need to wait for ‘the right time’? Are you creating enough internal clarity to help your business move forward? From my list above, what pieces must you put in place first?

In Episode Two of the Propelling Performance Podcast, Redefining Peak Performance, I discussed the illusion of certainty and some of the disturbing problems with waiting for ‘the right time’ with Peak Performance Coach, Eric Partaker. I’m sure you’ll find his revelations thought-provoking – you can listen to it here.

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