Killing Success

Everything was going great, they had achieved success.  Then, all of a sudden, the wheels fell off.  Some key people left, sales growth went flat, and the CEO was scratching his head.

Have you ever heard that story before?

This was a group of talented, smart people. They thought their success would keep on going, but they lost sight and they got arrogant. Customers had evolved and expectations were being missed.  The leaders didn’t know they were arrogant, they were too busy to be arrogant.

Arrogance can happen in every organization.  You are most susceptible when you’ve had some success.[1] You’ve seen it, it’s when you start thinking you are smarter or better than everyone else.  The list of great companies who have been affected by this is pretty long.  Do you remember how dominant Microsoft was in the software industry? Or maybe how respected Wells Fargo was in banking?  Both companies were at the top of their game, and took a hit.

Arrogance is a success killer.

One way to avoid this is to look outside, both at your competition and your customers.

This needs some intention, here are 5 ways to do it:

  1. Talk to your customers. It’s amazing what they will tell you if you ask.
  2. Talk to your customer-facing employees. They have great insight into your customer’s mind.
  3. Send your inside people out and talk to the customer.
  4. Bring outside people in. You can create a focus group, or an advisory board.
  5. Data research, there are research techniques that you can learn how to stay aware of customers and competitors, use them. Data combined with qualitative research can be a treasure trove of information.

It’s hard for arrogance to thrive when everyone is aware of how much the customer is in control, or competitors are running fast every day.  Keep your eye on them, and keep your organization aware of them.

The only way to win the race is to know your customer, and the competition well.

[1]  A Sense of Urgency, John Kotter


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