Winter is Coming

Originally published on October 24, 2018 by the Montrose Daily Press.

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” In the same sense, if things are going really well, we may caution ourselves against breaking out the tent, campfire, lawn chairs and malt whiskey. No matter the state of affairs, we must keep going. Keep moving. Keep iterating. Keep digging.

The trees and falling temperatures tell us winter is coming. Unfortunately for businesses and organizations, winter will eventually come as well.

Do you really understand why something is working well within your organization? Maybe a certain product is flying off the shelves, you’ve had almost zero turnover, or your reputational capital is particularly high. Often times, founders and leaders file these things away as things they don’t have to worry about. We innocently believe our strengths will always remain that way thus, we focus on other opportunities. Or worse yet, we think we know why our organization is performing well in a particular area and when we find out that isn’t the case, it is often too late to correct course.

Because we love Montrose and sustaining ourselves in the next “winter” of economic times is desirable, we should challenge ourselves in thinking about what things might look like if we have to operate a bit leaner.

Let’s focus on your best-selling product line or service (i.e. the part of your organization that is kicking butt). Let’s break it down into the minuscule, nitty gritty details and aim for understanding:

1. Why are people buying the widgets/widget service? The answer to this is not as simple as it may seem. Are they buying the widgets because there is a perceived value to the widgets that isn’t actually there? Or is the value there? Are the widgets amazing and people are buying them at an insane pace because the widgets are priced too low? We should never assume the answer. Ask customers. Ask employees. Observe the way people use the widgets. Are the widgets a trend, or are they here to stay?

2. What would happen if you doubled down on the widgets? Explained more simply, let’s say you hired a new marketing person two years ago and since that time, sales have been up, walk-ins have doubled, and that little thing called “profit” has slowly and steadily increased. What would happen if you hired a second marketing person? Maybe the answer is your demand would exceed supply and you wouldn’t be able to satisfy your customers’ desires. Maybe the answer is the added salary will eat away your profits and ultimately have the opposite effect you’re aiming for. Or…maybe the answer is you prepare your supply chain for increased demand, you teach your staff they should focus on driving enough sales or value into the organization to not only cover their own salary, but to put some into the business for a wintery day.

3. Can you explain your success? Can you replicate it? Write it down. Map it out. Because the next time we walk down this particular trail, it might not be such a sunny day. Can you find your way back to success when the wind is whipping, your toes are cold, and you don’t have enough dry firewood to build a fire? We owe it to ourselves as a community to be more prepared for an economic downturn that we were the last time. We are not invincible, but we can become harder to kill.

If you’ve ever done any work regarding safety or emergency preparedness, you know that we can never be too prepared for an emergency. We can never be too well trained, too practiced, or too organized. One day, your business or organization is going to face a crisis. Right now, while not in crisis, is the time to get everything prepared. Be sure the widget you think is leading the way will in fact do so when the going gets tough. Ensure the widget’s success isn’t some kind of market fluke. From there, really invest in the things that are working. If you’ve got pocket aces, double down and take the risk now. Finally, instead of camping out and enjoying the good times, keep moving forward.

Chelsea Rosty is the director of business innovation for The City of Montrose. She can be reached at crosty@ci.montrose.co.us.