Resistance to Change – A Universal Personal Quality
Change is not something very many people embrace. In fact, it seems that many will flee change as if it were the plague! To prepare a company to be in the best possible position for a business sale or business succession often requires significant changes. Inevitably we will identify paths of action that can potentially resolve those situations. Equally inevitable, is that these pathways call for some degree of change on the part of the owner.
This will lead to a series of conversations with clients concerning the nature of the changes. We review the traits of the owner and/or the business that appear to work against the required changes. I ask if they understand these contradictions. I also ask whether they are willing to embrace the needed changes.
An Engineering Company that Needed to Grow
Here’s a good example of how change can work to the benefit of the owner. This client was a small engineering firm. The owner had a long history of success.
Here were some of the critical issues we identified:
- Typically he had a small number of long-term clients. Whenever he lost a client it would represent a blow to the company’s stability until a replacement could be found.
- The owner had tried to address this over the years but without success.
- He also had specific personal financial goals which were best served by growing the business to its next logical plateau and by getting client diversification in order to avoid the dips associated with major client loss.
- Finally the owner preferred doing engineering work and did not like doing sales or marketing work.
In order to achieve his personal financial goal he needed to address the company growth and client concentration issues. This implied remedial action in improving sales and marketing – something that he had to be involved with personally and did not enjoy doing.
Are You Willing to Go Out and Sell?
The owner was fully bought in to the overall analysis. He recognized and acknowledged the logic behind the need to grow and what that would do for his goals. Addressing the change needed from him personally that would put him in the position of getting out and leading a sales/marketing effort was another matter entirely.
Ultimately I had a heart-to-heart meeting with the client and forced the question on him. “Are you willing to get out and sell?” The answer was, “Not really.” This left us with a hole in our planning.
Fortunately, we were able to focus on another of our client’s attributes – a love of teaching. New business for his firm typically came from referrals. He was already involved in his professional association. I worked with the client to map out a business development plan based more on networking than outright sales and marketing. This networking plan was centered on increasing his visibility within the professional association via more involvement with its on-going education programs. This was a plan that was well-suited to his persona and was a change he could embrace.
Create Change That Works With You – Not Against You
This client ultimately achieved many of his objectives but it required altering our original plan to work within the framework of what he was willing and unwilling to change. I find many owners beat themselves up over this issue. I advise them to be true to their own nature and qualities.
If you are an owner and you expect to address issues that are constraining your personal goals or the development of your company, it is essential to recognize what change you are willing to embrace and that which you are not.