While sitting at a stoplight yesterday, on a route I routinely take, I was surprised to notice the Friendly’s at that intersection had gone out of business. As I drove on after the light turned green, the image of the “For Lease” sign was etched into my thoughts.For_Lease

My mind swirled, pondering how things that we take for granted as “a constant” really aren’t just that. Delicious scoops of fudge-drenched ice-cream and streams of smiling kids that made that building bustle are now a fading memory of days past.

There are many reasons that restaurant may have shut down, and I won’t attempt to speculate, but I will share with you the exhortations that swelled within me as I contemplated the new reality:

  • Always be listening. Always be aware of the constant changes happening around your business, and don’t get too tunnel-focused on the tyranny of the urgent.
  • Stay relevant. As progress inevitably ensues, innovation needs to be fostered.
  • Make customer experience a priority. If you decide to make changes that impact your customers, a cost-benefit analysis is imperative. A fast-food restaurant doing away with “kids eat free on Tuesdays” may be losing a segment of valued customers.
  • Ensure you have ways to measure. Don’t just measure the bottom line, but critically assess the results of key decisions. Replacing a high-caliber employee with an inexperienced one may save you a little on salary expense, but may cost you customers in the long-run.
  • Don’t rely on any one avenue, one channel, or a singular way of thinking; as the old cliché reminds us, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Continuing with your “tried and true” methods isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re neglecting newer practices/technologies/methodologies, you may get left in the dust.

Progress implies forward movement. If you’re standing still, you’re really getting left behind. Red flags should start flying if an entrepreneur ever feels too comfortable or invincible. Progress and innovation will continue, so relaxing on cruise control is a risky venture. Always learn, stretch, grow just beyond your natural inclination.

In what ways are you “stepping out of the boat” to ensure you’re moving forward?