The business environment is full of ups and downs just as the world economy has its’ peaks and troughs. In the very same way each individual business will have its fare share of good times and bad. In the good times things go well, products and services are in demand and the astute business person is forever looking forward to see what’s next. In the not so good times though, lets not call them bad, some business people can dwell a little too much and look back trying to figure out what’s gone so wrong. Makes sense? Well, to a certain degree yes providing they also do the forward looking part as well to look out for those future opportunities.
Success and failure are such emotive words yet we all experience them in our private and professional lives. It’s what we do during these extremes that make a difference to us as individuals and for our businesses. Sometimes you can be so wrapped up in the ‘good times’ that you stop to think just how you got there and just as importantly, celebrate that success.
There are reasons why you have been successful and it’s highly likely that it won’t be down to just you, it will be down to the efforts of a number of people either working for you directly or supplying you in some way. But, isn’t continued business success celebration enough, especially in tough economic times? Maybe not would be my answer and here’s why.
The economy and your customers/clients are changing. This is not something new affecting us now, they’re always changing and you need to be aware of how the changes impacting them may impact you. Back to celebrating the success then. You don’t just throw a party or buy cakes for everyone; you make time for a special event (with or without cakes). It doesn’t have to take long but it has to be well planned because you want to get those who were involved in creating the success to talk about it and in doing so think about how it can be made to continue.
This can be done easily in an hour or two, perhaps at a special lunch with invited guests (perhaps your key suppliers and some customers). Highlight the success at the start and thank everyone for their excellent contributions and pose the question “How can we be even better next time?”. It sets the topic of discussion for the rest of the time you have set aside.
Just make sure you’re able to capture the thoughts and suggestions as you go and be prepared for e-mails and phone calls for the next few days as people have time to think things through.
What? I hear you say. Why would anyone want to celebrate a failure, they would want to forget about it and “sweep it under the carpet” wouldn’t they? Well, some will do these things but they’re missing a trick and an important one at that.
The fact that something has failed means that for whatever reason the thing you were trying just didn’t work out as you expected it to. You tried something, a new product or a new service that customers just didn’t engage with. There is so much in common with a success and we seem to forget that. By this I mean the effort that each and everyone has put in along the way to make the product/service happen.
Think about all aspects of the product/service or even new internal process as it may well be that not everything about it can be considered a failure. The celebration need not be styled in the same way as if it were a success but everything else needs to be in place – the same groups of people and the thank-you for all their excellent contributions. And yes, you need to pose a question along the lines of “How can we improve on this?”, not dwelling on why things didn’t work out but keeping it future focussed.
Capture what’s discussed and you will get a variety of opinions coming out which will, because it’s human nature, include people’s views on why it didn’t work out. You and your team need all those opinions because they represent the wider group knowledge of what happened. If you are feeling brave of course you could invite your customers/clients to find out what they think and this is where you’ll get your real reality check of whether it was a failure or not from their perspective.
So, celebrate those successes by all means but don’t forget to celebrate when things don’t go to plan. If you don’t you run the risk of losing the opportunity to build in improvements for the future.