I learned my first lesson on the dangers of conformity when I was in kindergarten. My best friend, kathy, asked me what my favorite color was. She responded before I could answer indicating her favorite color was blue.
So, not wanting to disappoint her, I responded, “blue”. My favorite color then, and now, has always been green. I don’t remember a whole lot about those early years, but this story has always stuck with me as I’ve learned that conformity can stifle our personal development, imprison our creativity and affect our potential.
People conform to others’ ideas for many reasons. For some, it’s about staying in the “safe zone”— it’s just easier to conform than to defend your position. And then for some, conformity is the solution when one doesn’t know what other options are available. “Everyone else is doing it, why not?”
As a business owner, we can’t afford to conform to others’ ideas and ways of managing and operating a business. “Cookie cutter” business strategies do not meet the unique needs of business owners today. Consumer’s needs are changing, too. They have become the party in control of the ever-changing sales process. This changing sales landscape has prompted business owners to rethink their strategies to remain competitive in their industries.
To make matters more challenging, throw in a few historic events over the last 100 years that affected a large percentage of small businesses in the United States. Some survived, some rebuilt, some folded.
History has proven that our economy has taken repeated blows, specifically in the time frame of the 20thand 21st centuries. To name just a few—the 1929 stock market crash, World War II, UPS strike in 1997, 911, the 2008 economic collapse, and now an unforeseen pandemic. More recently, the US Department of Labor cited that 30% of businesses were rendered non-operational due to the recent pandemic.
This is unacceptable. Knowing that our global economy depends on the success of small businesses, we should be taking a proactive approach. We have been conditioned (and it’s the law in most states) that buying auto & home insurance is a standard operating procedure to protect us for those unexpected, catastrophic events. Why isn’t having “what if” strategies in place not deemed as equally as important?
Whether a business is selling something or providing a service, there are three things that small business owners can do to thrive vs survive. It’s all about thinking outside of the “circle”. Notice, I didn’t conform by saying “box”.
Conformity kills the cat. Every business is different and requires different growth strategies. The easiest route isn’t always the smartest one. Take time to reflect on where you’ve been, where you’re going and what you want to accomplish short and long term.
Businesses are only as strong as the leadership behind the logo. And true leaders rarely conform. They blaze trails and set new standards of what success looks like. They make tough decisions while thinking outside the “circle” while others stay safe and embrace the status quo. Be brave. Be different. Thrive not survive. Your business depends on it.