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Success is a Direction

November 5th, 2013

“What can we do in the next 30 days?”

This question is a knee-jerk reaction to a range of business situations – a dip in quarterly sales, a customer or client service issue, supplier cost increases, the big-fish prospect that seems to have gotten away, or a competitor’s traction in the marketplace. Suddenly, the priorities of your company, business unit or sales team take a 180 degree turn, as the clock ticks and stress levels rise.

If you’re asking this question, use it as an opportunity to get clear about your definition of success, and how to achieve it each day, every day. 

Take the case of a scratch bakery, which means that products are baked fresh every day from proprietary recipes. When the business started up, the owners decided that freshness mattered most.  They invested in high-quality ingredients and equipment, committed to baking fresh every day, and decided to donate unsold products to charity at the end of each business day. Every morning, they start from scratch again.

In the early days of the business, this approach meant that a large percentage of the day’s production was donated to charity. It also means an ongoing commitment to very early mornings and very long days for the owners. It would be easy to justify selling day-old products. Why not?  Many bakeries sell products baked one or two days earlier, to reduce operational costs and working hours.  

For this scratch bakery, day-old is not an option. Success is providing customers with the freshest products available. The owners have stayed that course each day, every day. Yes, they have adjusted along the way, testing new products, monitoring sales and production costs and adapting the menu based on customer response. Four years later, the business has a reputation for freshness, a profitable customer base of loyal patrons and solid book of wholesale accounts.

Whether you run a global company, a small business or a tech start-up, you’ve probably been tempted to cut corners on your definition of success. Or maybe you haven’t defined it for yourself and are lured by the hundreds of books that claim to reveal the secrets of success.

The real secret? 

There are many helpful ideas. There is no one-time, sure-fire, stroke-of-luck fix that guarantees success in 30 days, or for all the days that follow.  In business as in life, success is a direction, not a destination.  Success requires being clear about what you and your business stand for and moving steadily in that direction, each day, every day. 

What can you do in the next 30 days? 

Define success, head in that direction, stay the course, and make incremental adjustments along the way.  Each day, every day.