Stop settling for good. Chase great.

Something the CEO of the investment firm Bridgewater Associates, Nir Bar Dea, said at the Qatar Economic Forum caught my eye. He said, “My advice to investors here is don’t use the playbook for the last 10 to 15 years for the next 10 to 15 years.” And the reason it stuck is because the idea of complacency has been on my mind.

Many of you likely remember the Jim Collins line: “Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” Substitute here “life” for “company,” and we’ve arrived at the point I’m looking to make.

Business leaders can fall into a state of complacency — our products are selling well enough, we’ve got plenty of revenue to keep doing the things we’ve always done, so we stop innovating. I encourage those who find they’re in this mindset to think not of themselves — after all, the business may be affording us exactly the lifestyle we want — but instead think about the families that work for us, our community, causes we’re passionate about, the local economy. What more could we contribute to these areas if we pushed ourselves a little more?

Innovation takes consistent effort. And as leaders, that responsibility falls on us. The more work we put into innovation, the more opportunities we can create for our businesses to be more relevant to more customers, and the more money our businesses can make.

Take Dell, for instance. Founded in the 1980s, the company made billions of dollars as a PC maker. And it could have gotten complacent, resting on its initial innovations, and the piles of money it produced, until the market shifted away from those early innovations and founder Michael Dell could ride off into the sunset with his significant fortune. But that wasn’t enough. While the details of the company’s transformation are incredible and worth a look, I’ll give a CliffNote version here. After taking his then-public company private in 2013, Dell maneuvered the business to be less dependent on PCs alone and made several acquisitions to bolster its presence in enterprise software, and cloud data storage and management. It invested in its salesforce and knocked on doors until it became a go-to solutions provider for businesses. In the process, it grew its revenue from $62 billion in 2012 to $102 billion in 2023.

Complacency can sneak up on us. To quote Warren Buffett: “Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” So, when everything in our business seems fine, that may be the best time to start looking at what we can do to push our organization to the next level.

Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc.

Fred Koury

President and CEO
Connect On Social Media