The Seinfeld Moment
Originally published September 12, 2017 by The Montrose Daily Press
About a year ago, I had coffee with a local businessman. I was currently serving on the Chamber Board of Directors, and we discussed the future of the Chamber.
There had been turmoil, poor leadership, and finances were looking dismal.
“Do you think it’s time?”someone asked. The question directed at nobody in particular, but a more philosophical pondering. Was it time for the Chamber to close its doors?
How do you know when it is time to kill something? Some of the world’s greatest artists, athletes and business people have left the world wanting more. It is visionary. Jerry Seinfeld made the decision to end his show after nine seasons. He could have made more episodes and millions more dollars. Yet, something internally told him it was time.
Although we don’t always operate the same way in business, it is very important we know when to say “when.” When do we stop offering a product, close a branch, or restructure the way we do things completely? When do we close the business or disassemble the organization?
When Steve Jobs introduced the iPod to the world, he told us “this is 1,000 songs in your pocket.” It was revolutionary. Today, you don’t hear much about the iPod. Apple and Jobs found a way to kill the iPod by bringing something better to the market: The iPhone. That vision has changed the world.
So how do you know when it is time to kill it? Your business, a product, an artistic offering?
1. Will people “riot in the streets” if you close your doors or stop offering that product or service? If the answer is no, that’s your answer. If the answer is yes, you may still consider if something has ran its course and evaluate your plans in offering something better before it is too late.
2. A friend once told me a system is broken when people start finding ways around it. What systems are in place in your business that staff or customers consistently circumnavigate? Many leaders would react and blame staff or customers for not “following the rules.” Instead, look at your leadership or your system and see what is flawed.
3. Would you feel good about walking away? Would you be leaving on a high point? Or did you milk it until the very end where you will be walking away from nothing? There are few things we leave behind when we go. Legacy is one that will remain. Be the type of leader who sets an organization up for success long after you’re gone. Making tough decisions now can pave the way for years to come.
4. What do your users say? Don’t be so fearful of the answer that you’re afraid to ask the question. Ask them how they would feel if you no longer offered product “x” or if you closed a division of your company. As heartbroken as you may be hearing they do not value these things, the knowledge will be powerful.
5. Be open to the idea of doors opening if you close this one. What could emerge if this idea/business/slate of work were removed from its path?
We obviously did not go to the extreme of “killing” the Chamber. We have spent months evaluating its systems, programs, and image. If the Chamber was in trouble a year ago today, we would not be doing our jobs if we didn’t come in and do some drastic cutting and revamping.
For example, much to the dismay of many (they aren’t rioting in the streets, but …), the Chamber no longer offers Business After Hours. This event was outdated and many working professionals did not attend. Our research said many of our members consider time after 5 p.m. “family or personal” time. These professionals will not sacrifice after-work time for a work obligation. Further, people are not as interested in the age old self-promotion that comes along with these type of networking events.
We listened and created the quarterly “Business Showcase.” We found by offering events featuring family-friendly and community facing activities, attendance goes up. These events also feature several businesses rather than one.
We killed the model of exclusivity traditionally held by chambers. Business Showcases and all Chamber events are open to the public. Chamber membership is not required. We believe the Chamber exists as a driver of commerce within our community. We hope to create opportunity for all, not just an exclusive few.
As a leader, it is your job to have a Seinfeld moment. How might you quit while there is still magic, love, and adoration for your craft?
Chelsea Rosty is the executive director of the Montrose Chamber of Commerce and director of business innovation for the City of Montrose. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.