Thursday, October 6, 2005

Take risks, celebrate your mistakes and learn

Business Times p.B4
Thursday, October 06, 2005

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Take risks, celebrate your mistakes and learn

IN their book, Celebrate Your Mistakes, authors John W. Holt Jr., John Stamell and Melissa Field write about why companies fail or miss opportunities. Some reasons given were that companies often fail to:

• listen to their customers
• act on changes and trends in markets and in technology
• keep at least one eye on the competition, including potential encroachment from other sectors
• encourage risk and divergent opinions among employees
• take an inclusive approach to problem solving and fail to believe that their company could ever fail.

At the sign of trouble, the authors said that typically companies, at the crest of their success, just shrug their shoulders and remark:

• We own this market.
• We started this trend.
• We tried that before.
• We’ll know when we see it.
• Our business is unlike any you’ve ever seen.
• Of course we re prepared for the future. We have a 10-year plan.
• We brand equity and our customers are very loyal.
• We deal with retail store owners, so we don’t need a customer data base.
• We just hired you to do the ads, don’t tell us about our business.
• My children are going to run this business; this is a family business. We don’t hire outsiders.
• Only 10 percent of our customers don’t like us, we don’t worry about it.
• It’s not that we need more customers, we just need our customers to use us more often.
• Total quality is everything.
• I don’t worry about customer issues that’s why I have a sales manager.
• My door is always open; people just don’t seem to come in.
• We’ll make it up in volume.
• This company has made the same thing for 50 years. That’s what we do now, and that’s what we’re always going to do. That’s what people know us for.

The companies who said these were on the Fortune 500 list in 1954 with only a few staying on in the 1994 list due either to consolidation, buyout, or having gone out of business.

When you catch yourself uttering any of these remarks or see your profits sliding down, the authors suggest six exercises you could do:

• Reexamine the premise of your business. It has changed.
• Expose yourself and avoid the culture of insulation.
• Defy the corporate culture. Institutionalize risk.
• Imagine the world without your product. Why will it happen?
• Assume everything you have done has failed. Now reinvent yourself.
• Compete against yourself.

And this is where you need to summon the innovative spirit of everybody in your company. And I mean everybody, and not just your “elite think tank.” You could have team and individual brainstorm. The authors suggest that you ask each individual to submit written answers to four questions; then discuss their answers as a team:

• Describe your job a year from now. Two years from now.
• What risks are you going to take this year?
• How are you going to be entrepreneurial this year?
• Write something about this company that no one else knows.

A final word from the authors: “Honesty in business is about more than just telling the truth. There is no replacement for knowing your business, your market and your customers, and no teacher like your own mistakes. There is no single answer to why companies fail or miss opportunities. Every business has its own story to tell.”

RI District 3780: When I was asked to be president of the Rotary Club of Quezon City North, I simply accepted the mandate with no expectations, no promises. Now that I am in the thick of it, I am finding it very fulfilling and uplifting. There is so much to do for the least fortunate and so many Rotarians willing to help. There is so much ideas generated and acted on in working with the young, the teachers, families and fellow Rotarians helping each other help themselves. There is much camaraderie going around in and out of Rotary meetings and projects. There is so much opportunities to discuss and do business with fellow Rotarians. In Rotary we believe that the best is yet to come.

Join us and enjoy the wonderful world of giving “service above self.” RCQC North meets 7-9 p.m. every Thursday at Bigshot Bar and Billiards, Delta Theater, Quezon Avenue, Quezon City.

Moje is president of Paradigms and Paradoxes Corporation and her email address is

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