Thursday, June 28, 2012

Climbing off the roller coaster

Cylone Roller Coaster by elisamike
Cylone Roller Coaster, a photo by elisamike on Flickr.

Take a good look at the faces on this ride.  The guy in the white shirt in the front seat is having the time of his life, while his seatmate appears to be clinging onto the armrest in an attempt to stabilize herself.  The guy in the second row looks a bit queasy while his seatmate has a hand in the air.  

It would appear that roller coasters aren't for everyone.  The peaks and valleys provide thrills if you're into that sort of thing - but you can bet that fewer people would be smiling if they didn't know that the steep downward plunge was going to be followed - every time - by a climb back up.  They wouldn't be lifting their hands up in the air if the cars weren't secured to the rails.  Instead they might avoid the ride altogether, or hang on for dear life, wondering whether this ride would be their last.

Does your business feel like a roller coaster to you?  Are there cash flow ups and downs, seasonality, economic sensitivity that can have a dramatic influence on your results?  Are you enjoying the thrill of the ride, or are you gritting your teeth and hanging on, counting on a yet unseen upturn on the track?

Think for a moment though, about whether you're solely riding on the roller coaster, or whether you have the opportunity to design the ride.  Do you really have to sit there buckled in while someone else decides where the dips and curves are going to be?

You may be missing opportunities to work on your business while you're working in your business.  For instance, have you considered these questions:

  • What is the source of the main stream of revenue in your company?  Are there multiple sources, or do one or two contribute enough that if they went away you'd be in hot water?
  • What would happen if you wouldn't be able to go in to work?  What would stop happening?  Would it be life-threatening to the company?
  • What is the impact of speed in your business?  If you delivered faster would you generate cash more quickly?  Is your Accounts Receivable process in good shape so you're receiving appropriate and prompt compensation for work done?
  • How happy are your customers?  What do they like (versus tolerate) about your products and services?  Are they coming back, or you having to reinvent your book?
  • Is your product mix the right one for your target market, your resources, and your future?  Would it stabilize your business to have more variety, or to cut the nonperforming ones from your offerings?
You don't have to ride along clinging to the armrest.  You might not be able to eliminate all of the peaks and valleys in your business, but you may be able to smooth them into a more enjoyable, more sustainable ride.  It's not the easiest task to step back and be strategic when you're in the middle of a crazy schedule and people pulling at you from all directions.  But stepping back and being strategic is exactly what you need to make time to do if you want to climb off the roller coaster.

1 comment:

manoj singh said...

For the actual in-game roller coaster, see The Screaming Oak.If you fall off the tracks before the steep drop, there's a ladder you can use to climb back up.