How Complacency Almost Killed My Business
Updated: Feb 13
When you get complacent you put your business at risk. These seven dangers suggest you need to re-evaluate how you run your business.
Complacency in your business kills.
My name is Hassan Younes and I discovered this very thing with my own business. For several years, I ran a successful childcare business.
By 2012, business was booming. I’d worked hard to develop a solution that the market wanted. Now, I’d started to reap the rewards.
And my attitude towards my business changed. I became comfortable and lazy in the way that I ran the company. Four-day weekends became common for me and I adopted a complacent leadership style without even realising it.
The business hit rock bottom. The capacity dropped to 34% from a previous high of 95%.
It very nearly became one of the 260,000 Australian businesses that close every year.
Complacency is a human condition disease. And when it comes to your business, complacency is the cancer that could kill the company.
Complacency is a state of self-satisfaction that leaves you unaware of the dangers running rampant in your business.
I want to help you to avoid those dangers so you can run a healthy company. Here are seven to look out for.
Danger #1 – Allowing Competitors to Overtake You
As a business owner, you’re constantly racing to stay ahead of your competition. When you found the business, you’ll work hard to set yourself apart.
And it works. You find your competitive advantage and business starts booming. That’s when complacency kicks in.
You’ve gotten to the top of the mountain and that competitive drive starts to fade. You stop paying as much attention to what your competition looks like. And that creates the danger of your competition overtaking you.
Remember that market conditions and consumer needs evolve constantly. Complacency stops you from evolving with them. But it won’t stop your competitors.
If you're struggling to keep pace with your competition, ask yourself why. It’s possible that your complacency has caused your business to stagnate. Your competition getting ahead of you is just a symptom of that.
Danger #2 – Your Team Starts Resenting You
What do your people think about a leader who never seems to turn up to work?
In my business, I took long weekends and showed up as I pleased. I felt satisfied. But I wasn’t leading my people. I basically turned up, checked on a few things, and then left again.
It’s natural that a team would start resenting a manager who does that. While they’re struggling and working hard to keep the business afloat, you're not available to them. They can't come to you for advice or direction.
That’s one of the dangers that complacency causes. Resentment builds within your team until it gets to the point that they don’t want to work for you anymore.
This can lead to all sorts of issues.
For one, your people may lose any respect that they had for you. And when that happens, they’re less likely to listen to you. Your directives fall on deaf ears as the team just ploughs ahead with its work.
You also set a terrible example for your team when you become complacent. You’re showing them that this is the right way to do business. They start emulating you and the company suffers as a result.
Finally, you risk losing your best people. Talented individuals do not want to work with a company that’s stagnating. Your complacency might drive the very people who can help you to fix the issue away.
Danger #3 – You Lose Sight of Your Company’s Goals
You had a dream when you founded your company.
You wanted to achieve something remarkable. The business had clear goals from the start, which is one of the big reasons why it succeeded.
You had clarity in terms of the overarching vision and what you need to do to turn that vision into a reality.
Unfortunately, complacency set in when you reached your goals. The drive disappeared and you didn’t set any new goals.
When that happens, the best that you can do is to maintain the current levels of operation. With no new goals, it’s impossible for the business to scale.
What’s more likely is that the lack of clarity causes all within the business to lose focus. This lowers productivity as people end up working on tasks that don’t serve the business.
Danger #4 – You Lose All Sense of Urgency
It’s not just changing market conditions that should prompt change within a business. As a business owner, you need an ever-present goal of making your business as efficient as possible.
This requires organisational change.
For example, you need to make use of advances in technology to improve processes. You need to devise new strategies to ensure your customers always get what they want.
The business has to constantly grow from the inside to ensure it meets the expectations of its audience.
Complacency kills your desire to create organisational change. You lose any sense of urgency when it comes to improving the business.
And that turns you into a roadblock. You’re not taking the initiative to drive change within the company. But worse yet, your complacency means that you’re not acting on the recommendations that your people provide to you.
That’s incredibly frustrating for your talent. The end result is a business that stagnates and starts to lose its best people.
Danger #5 – Fear Grows Within the Business
Fear causes so many issues within a business. What you may not realise is that fear is often a key component of complacency.
It is your fear that may prevent you from taking the actions you need to take to grow the business. For example, fear of dealing with the political machinations of a large organisation can cause issues. You may not want to do it so you don’t confront the issue. This gives rise to complacency.
You may also fear the changing dynamics that come with business evolution. Creating change leaves you feeling vulnerable and creates risk. Instead of confronting those feelings, you avoid the change altogether.
Again, you become complacent.
The big danger here is that this fear can eventually bed into your business. Your complacency allows fear to creep into the culture and it becomes a part of how everybody does things.
It’s difficult to admit that you’re fearful of what the future may hold. But ignoring those feelings breeds the complacency that can lead to your biggest fears coming true.
Danger #6 – You Become Reactive
Have you ever felt that you’re constantly putting out fires in your business?
Perhaps you have clients who constantly bring problems to you. Or, you may have people who don’t take the initiative. Instead, they only take action when an issue forces them to.
Maybe you are one of those people.
A reactive leadership style is one of the key dangers of complacency.
When you’re complacent, you stop thinking ahead. You no longer anticipate issues, which means you can’t take a proactive approach to solving them. The business just keeps going until the issues become too big to ignore.
Then, you react to them. And this pulls your focus even further away from the things that could help you to grow the business.
Worse yet, you become slower in our decision making. You’ll also develop bad habits that feed into your complacent leadership style.
Danger #7 – You Stop Paying Attention to the Details
The big picture is always important and you absolutely need to think big as a leader.
But you can’t do that at the expense of the little details. After all, it’s a combination of all of the little things that allow you to build a stable business in the first place.
Managing the details ensures you reach the standards that your customers expect from you. As you become more complacent, your attention to these details fades.
The end result is that you start delivering shoddier work that doesn’t match the standards you’ve set previously. Your customers will take notice of this. They’ll see the decline in your ability to meet their needs and they’ll disengage from your business.
They’ll move onto the competition. And worse yet, they may actively hamper your ability to find new customers. You’ve provided them with an unsatisfactory experience and they will tell other people about it. With social media being so important in today’s business landscape, their opinions could spread like wildfire.
All of this happens because your complacency caused you to stop paying attention to details.
Complacency is a cancer that slowly eats away at a business. It’s also not something that’s easily identifiable. You may not even realise that you’re a complacent leader until it’s too late.
These dangers also give you an idea about the issues that you need to look out for. Dissatisfaction in the workplace, declining standards, and the growth of fear suggest that you’re complacent.
Confront the issue head on to ensure your business continues growing.
I can help you with that. I have the cure for the cancer of complacency. If you’d like me to present at your next event, get in touch today.