Don’t Get Caught in the “Monkey Trap”
Sometimes the most critical factor in growing a business is not bringing in new business, but actually letting certain opportunities simply pass by.
Some short-term opportunities are so enticing that in order to pursue them, business owners lose sight of the strategic plan they have laid out for moving the company forward.When starting a new business, it’s always a bit of a scramble to pursue every opportunity that presents itself, chase down every lead and try to close every deal. Working incessantly long hours, they naturally rely on themselves to do everything. They do the marketing, selling, bookkeeping, administration and usually even the janitorial work. The relentless, jack-of-alltrades approach has big advantages out of the gate as it fosters innovation and problem solving, and can get them “over the hump” in terms of short term problems like a lack of sufficient startup capital.But in an established company, there’s a huge downside to this approach as the business owner becomes “trapped” in the business. Once they find themselves in a position where the business is established and there’s a clear demand for their product or service – and they’re making money – there’s a feeling of accomplishment, of success. This can feel so great after the hard days it took to get there that they become unwilling or afraid to change. They fail to continue to expand the business – for fear of losing what they already have. Ironically, for a business at that stage to grow requires exactly that – letting go of some of what they already have.They may have to let go of some of the opportunities that still present themselves. At that point it becomes critical to start defining their product or service more clearly, and let go of some of the peripheral business opportunities that got the business to that point. It will divert them from the long term goals if they continue to pursue them, and they simply can’t be all things to all customers anymore if they’re serious about growing the business.Growing the business requires time away from the day-to-day operations. And while there is no immediate payoff from working on the business and planning for growth, it is essential to do so in order to keep taking it to the next level. This involves a conscious decision to let go of some potential short-term income as they work more strategically on the long-term plan.Letting go of these business opportunities can be tough. After working so hard to build up the business and have it run in a certain way, business owners are naturally reluctant to let some of their responsibilities go and have someone else look after them. But it’s absolutely critical to bring in employees, vendors and experts to allow the business to grow.
I once read an article about the ‘South Indian Monkey Trap’. It’s a simple device for capturing a monkey and is often made with a clay pot or a coconut hollowed out from one end and chained to a stake in the ground. Sweet rice is placed inside, and the hole is big enough for a monkey to put its hand in and grab the rice – but too small for the monkey to remove its clenched fist with the sweet rice in it. There is no physical barrier preventing the monkey from escaping this trap; there is only a mental barrier. Monkeys have been known to grab the rice and keep trying to withdraw their fist until their captors arrive. It is the inability to reevaluate the rice in the context of the trap that eventually costs the Monkey its freedom.
Business owners often have their own ‘sweet rice’ dilemma that prevents them from achieving their business goals. They are constrained by mental barriers of their own creation, and these imaginary constraints inevitably lead to poor business decisions and failure to execute (or even create) the growth plan for the business.
Too often, business owners talk of working on and expanding their business without considering what they must give up to make that happen. They hold on so tightly to the present rewards that there is no opportunity to move forward – and they end up stuck. They become caught in their own “monkey trap”. To avoid this, they need to be willing to let go in order to escape the trap and move on to the next stage of business growth.
For more information or to discuss your particular needs in this area with an
expert business coach, please contact us and schedule a complimentary initial
telephone consultation where we’ll provide a customized
12-point growth plan for your business.
Breakout Consulting, LLC
Dearborn, MI ∙ San Diego, CA