You and your business partners have had a really great run – a successful year or quarter. You are feeling really good about things. There are likely a whole lot of things that you did right to achieve the recent success. However, how are you going to maintain a healthy level of paranoia to keep you in position for continued business growth?

Enhancing and maintaining those successful runs starts with sustaining a healthy dose of paranoia and raising your awareness of any behaviors in yourself or in your team that could be signs you are in a danger zone.

To keep your good streak alive, avoid these pitfalls:

Trajectory Complacency

For successful organizations, the tendency to develop a view of the future that is “up and to the right” so to speak is a trap that is easy to fall into. I’ve spoken before about the dangers of the tendency to plan with an assumption that you can assume the future will be a continuation of the past – trajectory planning . One way to mitigate that risk of trajectory complacency is to build a culture and planning process that includes a healthy dose of scenario planning. Ask good questions, the ones that may not be as popular or even feel right, but could help you assure the long term health of your business or even identify an incredible unaddressed opportunity.

Market Transition Denial or Ignorance

In some ways this is related to trajectory complacency because it is a situation in which you and your team do not consider the possibility of a vastly different universe. There are countless business cases on entreprenuers who challenged the status quo and disrupted industries as well as those established companies who abruptly found themselves struggling to maintain markets they previously owned.

When you are winning, having a great year, take time to evaluate the broader set of influences that could rock your world and your current market success.

Just a few examples to consider are the following:
• How do age demographics play in your market? Just last week, the results of the US Census confirmed that for the first time ever, millennials outnumbered baby boomers.
• What about ethnic cultures? Racial and ethnic minorities accounted for 91.7% of population growth in the US according to the 2010 US Census.
• Are you holding on to communications media (as a means of delivering or marketing your goods and services) that are in denial of the power of social and digital media? Or, alternatively are you jumping on the bandwagon because of hype when you have no idea who your customers are and which watering holes matter for them?

Declaring Yourselves Extraordinary

This is the situation where you might have found yourself at the right place and at the right time, and to your credit and the credit of your team – you capitalized. There is clearly room for some self-satisfaction here because after all, the ability to execute and to recognize when the stars are aligned and act are both attributes of many successful entrepreneurs. The red flag is that you could be giving yourself just a bit too much credit. A recent study which examined our culture of entitlement concluded that we are hesitant to attribute success to luck. As such, “when we reap rewards for literally being in the right place at the right time, we interpret it as confirmation we are innately extraordinary.”

So celebrate, toast your success, but maintain your healthy paranoia by watching for those red flags! At Lumen Strategies, we facilitate exploration of your strategies for go-to-market to help you identify both the risks that behaviors above can create as well as find jewels of opportunity. Contact us here if you would like to learn more.

Do you consider the trajectory and/or the potential transitions that may be relevant when constructing your business plans and goals for upcoming timeframe?  Whether you are a new startup, an early growth stage company, or an established company seeking to evolve in a slump, you have an opportunity to consider alternative ways to project and plan for the future for your business.  Challenging your plan (and your team) to consider both a trajectory state and a transition state can yield benefits.

Trajectory planning usually looks at your historical progress or that of a close competitor and applies a series of market attributes that either identify that the opportunity is picking up speed and exponentially growing, or that it has reached a leveling off plateau, or that it is cyclical in nature and has increasingly higher peaks and/or valleys.

But today’s environment is complex.  There are many stories we have all heard, however, about the role of significant market transitions and the spectacular successes and screechingly abrupt failures that these transitions have produced.  You know the big stories  – Kodak and digital photography (Forbes versionHBR version, and countless others have written on this), Nokia and the mobile technology market  (Wired version,  WSJ version , etc.) and there are many more.

Should you be considering what a potential transition might mean to your business? Whether you are a giant company or the local bakery, the answer is unequivicolly YES!

So start with asking yourself and your team the important questions and maintaining an open mind to view the opportunity from two sides of the table so to speak.  Of the many useful questions that I have found instrumental when challenging a leadership team during their planning process, these three questions stand out.  Although on so many fronts, these seem like the most fundamental of fundamental questions, it is surprising how often leadership teams cannot produce initially a clear answer.  Other times, and the exploration of this is invaluable, there are multiple answers from different team members and very little alignment on those answers!

My top five questions to kick off your planning process:
1) Who, and I mean exactly who are the humans that buy your ____________ <fill in the blank>?

2) What do they (those humans) care about what is a problem and pain point for them – very specifically for them as individuals?  What do they care about?  What problems do they need to solve?

3) What is a clear articulation of your unique and differentiated value proposition that is relevant to those humans in #1 and #2 above?

4) Who are your competitors today? Who will your competitors possibly be next quarter? Next year?

5) And this is a BIGGIE, often ignored … What are the barriers to entry for others to pursue your best potential customers (the ones you came up with in #1 and #2 above) with a similar but better value proposition (as you noted in #3)?

So, go ahead, make sure during your planning cycle you ask yourself and your team these questions.  Keep an open minded in considering and exploring the answers.  Apply both trajectory AND transition perspectives to the exercise.

I can confidently say that I have seen 100% of my clients gain valuable insight that informs their plans for a more successful upcoming term when they take the time to do this work.

You are a member of a company that produces technology. You are a senior leader or you aspire to be one or you influence and support product and solution decision making. You believe in what you do. So how can it be that a recent study by Price Waterhouse Coopers suggests that CEO’s don’t care about mobile, IoT, or wearables? I read about this in an article found here and could not help but think to myself that this “insight” sadly should not be a surprise to any of us.

Technology companies and their founders and leaders and marketing and sales teams usually share a common trait – exuberant enthusiasm for their technology products and solutions. Now, I am a big fan of exuberant enthusiasm! It fuels innovation, it helps us press through hard times and find a better way when the first route we chose is not working. Exuberant enthusiasm is good. Unless, it becomes blinding. The enthusiasm is blinding when those leaders in pursuit of making something great begin to fall in love with the wrong things.

These blinded exuberant leaders fall in love with:
• How speedy their processing, recovery, boot time, fault finding, alert raising, happens to be;
• How clever or hip their version of widgetry might be;
• How their “big numbers” are impressive in terms of the number of interfaces, ports, widget thingies, gigabytes, pixels, or whatever unit of technical measure they believe is the evidence of their greatness.

These people are generally not evil and most certainly not stupid. Most often the fundamental fault at hand is that they are not starting with the customer perspective. Grounding oneself or ones team on the customer perspective is a powerful way for businesses to:
• Improve their products and solutions;
• Increase their sales success;
• Identify innovation opportunities in how the solution is packaged or delivered to the client that make it better;
• And much much more…

I write a lot about perspective and firmly believe that when we challenge our perspectives, we all can be better business leaders, or for that matter, better people in a diverse world.

If you have a great technology product that you define as a mobile or IoT solution, why not challenge your exuberant enthusiasm for its greatness and really take the time to understand and gain some level of empathy with the executives or physicians or business owners or consumers you are assuming will be impressed! You do not need that survey for “insight,” that can help your business – just get on the other side of the proverbial desk or aisle or negotiating process and see what really makes your customers equally as enthusiastic! Want some help through this exploration? Contact us! We can help you get to know your customer better and transfer some of your enthusiasm to potential clients once they know how you help them with what they care about!