Famous last words – 9 phrases that should spell danger in a business.

Over the years, I’ve encountered many business owners who resist change and have a fixed mindset regarding business matters. This is especially true if the business has been operational for a few years and is doing well. Then, a few years later, they wonder what happened.

The following are a few phrases that spell danger for any business. Those with a fixed mindset may use different words, but the implication of what they say is the same:

  1. “We’ve always done it that way” – This is the most dangerous one for business survival and shows a lack of comprehension of what’s happening in the market and a lack of understanding of the implications of new technology. From a management point of view, it stifles innovation. I had first-hand experience of this when I was offered shareholding in a printing company when I had a small graphic design business. I accepted the offer on condition that specific changes be made in operations and that the company adopt computer technology for the design process. The senior partner refused, and we parted ways. Two or three years later, the business closed down.
  2. “That will never work for us” shows a dismissive attitude towards new ideas, even if you acknowledge a problem. As a “general” business advisor, I’ve found that business owners are reluctant to implement systems and processes that are effective in other industries, citing numerous reasons why it would not work and making an impromptu decision that it would not. When you eventually convince them to implement it, they do find that it works, and their reluctance is based on assumptions rather than facts. Here, we can use the example of efficiency in McDonald’s food preparation processes. These principles have been copied successfully in other industries.
  3. “No need to fix what isn’t broken” – This is actually another version of number 1 and shows resistance to change and complacency. It also shows a lack of foresight. If something has worked for the past ten years, it doesn’t mean that it will still work for the next ten. For your business to stay relevant, you need to keep up-to-date with what is happening in the industry and affect the changes necessary to survive and thrive.
  4. “Our customers won’t like change” – I’m sure this is what Nokia’s executives told each other when smartphones started to appear in the market. It shows a lack of understanding of the industry and where its going, an over-confidence on past performance and a lack of understanding of the changing needs of customers.
  5. “I know best; no need for input” – Again, an unhealthy over-confidence. It also shows a total disregard for the possible valuable input of others, especially frontline staff who work with clients daily and know where the business needs to improve its products and service to clients. It is sometimes good to get input from outside to get a new perspective.
  6. “Failure is not an option” – The fear of failure may keep the business from taking calculated risks and the possible growth that emanates from it. A fear of failure also inhibits innovation. Some wildly successful products came to be due to failure. The “Stick-it” note immediately comes to mind. From a management perspective, this creates a culture of intolerance. You work with humans, and humans make mistakes. Your systems and processes must allow you to deal with those.
  7. “It’s good enough” – This shows an attitude of mediocracy and complacency with the status quo. Almost every market is very competitive, and this attitude will soon see you lag behind your competitors and lead to the business’s ultimate demise. Customers want good products and excellent service; you need to give them it to survive and grow. If the technology you use is good enough for now, you’ll soon be outpaced by the competition. “Good enough” can never be good enough
  8. “I don’t need help. I know what I’m doing” – I’m sure this one has caused more than a few deaths in the past. It’s a variation of number 5 and indicates arrogance and reluctance to take advice. Try getting your employees to work with you or come up with suggestions to improve services and products with this attitude. This attitude hinders learning and will keep you stuck where you are.  It will negatively influence the innovation in your company and stop you from adapting to changing markets.
  9. “It wasn’t made here” – The variation on this one is:”It wasn’t invented here”. It shows a lack of openness to ideas that did not originate from within. If you fail to scan the environment for better ways to do things, your business will stagnate and certainly fail. You will find the competition outperforming you in every aspect of your business.  You will miss opportunities to improve efficiency, and this will waste time and money.

I’m sure that there are some other phrases that will be just as deadly in a business environment. Still, the bottom line is that to successfully run a business, you need an open mindset and an eagerness to learn to improve your products and services continuously and stay relevant.

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