Succeeding in business has a lot to do with anticipating problems. Seeing market shifts on the horizon gives you time to develop new product lines and avoid the issues that emerge when a revenue stream dries up. Noticing that a key team member is shopping around gives you time to consider a counteroffer.
Unanticipated problems, which are often referred to as pitfalls, can sink a company and have the potential to be disruptive and demoralizing. Businesses that respond poorly when encountering a pitfall can lose the confidence of both employees and customers.
“The business world is full of curveballs and pitfalls, but they can be overcome,” says Steven Pivnik, author of the newly released business book “Built to Finish.” “The key is having an endurance mindset. Leading a business is an endurance sport that requires an endurance mindset to overcome problems and achieve consistent forward progress.”
Pivnik is a serial entrepreneur who developed an endurance mindset competing as an IRONMAN triathlete. He is a world-class competitor who has competed in over a dozen full-distance IRONMAN events, including the IRONMAN World Championship. In the business world, he leveraged his endurance mindset to build a tech company that was named to the Inc 5000 list of fastest-growing companies for seven years in a row.
Pivnik now shares his business and leadership wisdom with companies around the world through speaking engagements, coaching, as well as through the publication of “Built to Finish.”
“If it’s worthwhile, it’s going to take a lot of work,” Pivnik says. “IRONMAN competitors must build up endurance in swimming, biking, and running before attempting a race. If they don’t, they will bonk, falling short of the finish and failing to accomplish their goals. The same is true in business.”
Plan for pitfalls
By nature, pitfalls are inherently frequently hidden and regularly unsuspected, making it virtually impossible to completely avoid them. However, businesses can plan for the ones they can’t avoid.
“IRONMAN competitions are complex with plenty of opportunities for something to go wrong,” Pivnik shares. “Successful competitors show up at the starting line with a strategy for pacing, fueling, and dealing with the unexpected. The same type of strategy is important in the business world, where even the simplest business has a lot of moving parts. Expecting the unexpected and having a plan to address it can be the difference between finishing strong and dropping out of the race when business pitfalls are encountered.”
According to Pivnik, having a plan for unexpected business challenges keeps a business from being caught flat-footed. It can include setting aside financial reserves to cover unexpected expenses or to meet obligations during lean times. Cross-training, which can limit the impact of an unexpected employee departure, is another way to prepare for the unexpected.
Stay committed to the plan
Having a plan is one thing, but sticking to the plan is another. For a plan to be truly valuable, business leaders must stay committed to executing it, which can be difficult when dealing with the challenges that pitfalls present.
“Execution is the critical sister step to planning, providing a return on all of the investment you’ve made,” Pivnik says. “In the heat of the battle — whether it’s occurring on an IRONMAN course or in a small business conference room — it is easy to panic and lose sight of the plan. Execution is the focus and resolve that keeps strategy from going out the window. When things get really tough, execution is what keeps a business from going off the rails.”
Appreciate the power of pivoting
Even with the best foresight and planning, sometimes pitfalls present challenges that can’t be overcome. In those cases, business leaders must learn to pivot. Pivoting essentially involves recognizing that conditions have changed and business practices must change to meet them.
“The shift to remote work prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic is a perfect example of a pitfall that requires a pivot,” Pivnik explains. “No business could possibly have anticipated the new remote work environment that has emerged, but every business must deal with it. The next generation workforce does not want to spend 40 to 50 hours per week in an office on top of a 2-hour daily commute. Pivoting means striking a balance that allows businesses to stay productive and profitable while still providing the flexibility workers now expect. The ability to pivot separates the winners from the losers.”
Dealing with the inevitable pitfalls businesses will face in 2024 requires a three-step approach of planning, executing, and pivoting where necessary. Businesses that adopt that approach will achieve the resilience that is essential to thriving in today’s ever-evolving business landscape.
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