When Does Flexibility Become Flipfloppiness?
The Business Owner’s Challenge
by Guest Writer Des Walsh
The picture I took recently of an abandoned pair of flip-flops prompted my thoughts today on what I regard as one of the most serious challenges business owners face today.
The challenge of balancing flexibility and openness to change with the need for consistency in what we do and how we present it.
Because if there is one thing all of us know about doing business in the 21st century it’s that we have to be flexible and adaptable. The business environment, the economy, the global political environment all change rapidly and with developments, twists and turns that leave even the most respected commentators and pundits scrambling to catch up and re-interpret, re-explain what they thought they had nailed just a few months ago.
If you are not flexible and adaptable you can look forward to the kind of future once arranged for themselves by buggy whip makers who saw the new-fangled vehicles we now know as cars going by and said “Won’t last. Give me a good pair of horses any day.”.
Equally, a business owner can overdo flexibility, with constant changes to the business model, the product or service on offer and the marketing message. Although the market can often respond to novelty (and especially in some industries, toys for instance), the market can also punish businesses that don’t know or are unable to communicate coherently what they really want to be, what need they are trying to meet or what they stand for.
But it can be confusing and even unnerving when the external environment is changing very rapidly, massively and unpredictably.
Right now, for instance, what is the small business owner to do when captains of industry, government leaders and seasoned observers give every sign of not knowing which way is up, or even whether indeed there is an up anywhere in the offing?
Well, we probably need to have a Plan B (which assumes we already have a Plan A). We definitely need a risk management strategy.
And we definitely need to be flexible.
As long as we don’t become so flexible that we do not develop or sustain any consistent vision and coherent, persuasive message about who we are and what we offer, to meet specified market needs.
We have to find a balance, in the long term and also on a more immediate basis, between being so consistent that we are too rigid and miss opportunities or threats and being so flexible that we come to be and be seen as master practitioners of flipfloppiness.
If you agree that finding that balance is a challenge, I hope you will share with us what guiding principles or rules you use to be the Philippe Petit of 21st century business.
Picture “flip-flop flipped” Copyright Des Walsh 2008