We used to have a saying at my company, “We’re really good at identifying problems and then solving them.” I always attributed a big part of our success to that skill set. I added a corollary to it, “but the problems are always new ones.”
That is likely the mantra of all high-growth businesses. I remember being young and naïve and thinking, “Great, we’ve figured business out.” Little did I know it would provide me a lifetime of problem solving, albeit always different problems.
Our current environment has turned some old ways on their head. Take the old adage, “Hire slow and fire fast.” That advice has been gospel. But if one were to take their time hiring now, that prospective new hire will likely be taking someone else up on an offer they received in near real-time. How about firing fast? If business leaders did that today, they’d be exacerbating their current staffing issues, as businesses across the board are struggling to fulfill basic staffing requirements.
I met a retired young businessman once who instantly recognized my passion for business, especially regarding my company. He said it reminded him of when he was growing his company, and he had the passion, too. I was perplexed and asked what had happened. He replied that the company got really big, with revenue over nine figures in annual sales, and that the problems he had to solve were no longer fun problems.
That change is not always appreciated, and his happy ending was to sell the company.
How about the axiom about diversifying your offerings to avoid customer concentration? In contrast, we are advised to stick to our knitting, stick to our core competency and be the best in the world at that one thing. Again, a dichotomy exists — stick to your knitting but be diversified and avoid concentration. The way we square that circle is by sticking to a specific set of competencies and diversifying markets served. Near as I can tell, no change needed here.
This sea change caused by the Great Resignation looks like it’s going to be around for a long, long time. Due to a booming economy, demographic shifts, breeding patterns, untimely deaths related to COVID-19 and drug abuse, combined with immigration policies, the labor shortage appears to be the new normal. Time will tell, although so far, this new problem has not been a fun one to solve.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the other new normal, the COVID-19 workplace. If you told me two years ago that in one week, we would transition to nearly our entire office staff working remotely, yet not experience a single glitch, I wouldn’t have believed that was possible. Yet successful companies everywhere have adapted without blinking an eye.
In change, there is always opportunity. Change is uncomfortable; it seems just when we get good at something, the game changes. Then again, no one goes into business because they perceive it will be the easy way. Embrace change; it’s one of the few things in life we can count on. ●
Steve Peplin is CEO of Talan Products