Op/ed: In business, sometimes it’s about learning how to let go
By Scott Harris on June 29, 2012
I just got back from breakfast with a friend who serves as a volunteer board member for a nonprofit trade association. The association is struggling to find (or regain) its place in our new economy. To move forward requires systemic change and many, if not most, of the board and executive team recognize that. A plan has been developed that will transform the organization and give it an excellent shot at future success.
Part of that plan requires recognition that the changes, when implemented, will result in the loss of a handful of current members. Everyone agrees that the anticipated losses would come from the pool of weaker members and the changes will both solidify the organization’s standing with existing members and bring in new members.
Yet they are unwilling to pull the trigger and implement the plan. There are some people on the team who just can’t get their heads wrapped around the idea of taking a small loss for a potentially huge gain. I point this out because it comes up time and time again with my clients and peers.
A client of mine runs a service business. She did a study that showed for a customer of hers to be profitable, they need to be generating $1,800 a month in revenue. Anything less than that is a financial loss. But she’s unwilling to resign clients that don’t meet the threshold and still wants to take on new clients (even those with no potential for growth) that generate less than $1,800.
Yes, there may still be someone, somewhere who has a dial-up phone (please wait, and an operator will be with you shortly), or has a VHS player but not a DVD player or simply refuses to use that newfangled electronic mail or interweb. But are any of those people really worth pursuing, or is your time better invested in other directions? In a nation of more than 300 million people, there will always be a handful who are technology adverse, quirky or just stubborn holdouts, married to days long past or days yet to arrive. The bottom line is that sometimes, to improve the bottom line, you have to let things go.
For those of us who make business decisions, we have to decide which prospects are worth pursuing and which ones we have to let go. The same goes for your current customers and clients. Personally, I still prefer a hardback book to a Kindle and a newspaper on the front porch to the Web. But as the owner of a marketing company, I’d be a fool to not recognize where the market has moved and to react to that on behalf of my clients, which is why so few are still in newspapers and so many on the Web. For each of us, we have limited time and money and each need to be invested as wisely as possible. The world, the economy and, for almost all of us, our industries, are changing rapidly and constantly.
We need to change and adjust right along with them if we want to continue to succeed. And sometimes that first step forward means letting go of the past.
• Scott Harris is the owner of Mustang Marketing, a marketing agency serving Ventura County and the San Fernando Valley. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.