It seems almost contradictory but its true: Success can sometimes work against you. Talk to entrepreneurs and executives and many will tell you that success in any business can be a mixed blessing, as motivation suffers and direction is hard to maintain.
I was reminded of this recently when I overheard an executive tell a table full of people that his organization was so successful that he and his staff didnt have to do a lot of the little things that other companies have to do. I could only imagine what those things could be, and then I remembered what a good friend of mine told me after his company had lost some of its biggest customers. It was a horror story about complacency and forgetting to do the basic things that are so essential in any business endeavor.
Ive watched what can happen when a perfectly successful and profitable business begins to feel it is so good and so dominant it doesnt have to do the little extra things for its customers that some of their competitors do. Executives begin to believe their own press clippings and forget that their focus should be on improving their products for their customers and making sure they work as hard satisfying their customers as they did when they were first climbing the ladder of success.
Humility is essential to success. If you go around telling others how wonderful you and your company are and how bad the competition is, trouble awaits. Arrogance can be so insidious. It creeps in very slowly, but like a cancer it eats away at an organization. Suddenly salespeople feel theyve done enough for the day and dont go out of their way to make an extra personal call on a client. The chief executive refuses to spend more money on a new customer service system that could improve efficiency, productivity and salesarguing that the costs would reduce quarterly profitswithout realizing any company that doesnt invest in its business is wide open to competition.
Another telltale sign of complacency happens when C-suite executives begin to worry more about their own pay packages than they do about running their companies. Any organization has to stay nimble and alert in order to be ready to serve its clients at a moments notice.
A few years ago, I hosted a workshop for providers and vendors and the subject was how to do a better job of selling to providers. I will never forget the head of a large healthcare system telling the story of how a certain manufacturer lost his systems business because the company sent in the third team to make a presentation to renew the business while a younger and aggressive firm came in with all of its top people to make the presentation. They were enthusiastic, they talked about giving exceptional customer service and they had pricing that was about equal to that of the vendor that had had the business.
The new vendor won the nod, but the old vendor asked for a second chance. It got it, but its second presentation was so lackluster it made no difference. It had simply lost the ability to keep valued customers happy.
Success can be fleeting and unless management stays on top of things, success can actually take an individual or company down. Statements such as, We are so good no one can touch us or Dont you know who we are? are signs that should make all of us quiver.
Always be on your toes and always stay in touch with your customers. Youll never lose out with that kind of attitude. Success should always be enjoyed and relished by any company or individual with the cautionary note that unless kept in perspective it can end up being fleeting.