Small Business: Are You Becoming Complacent?

Is Your Small Business Becoming Complacent?

If so, it may be time to wake up!

Small Business Complacency


Several weeks ago, my husband was bemoaning the fall of Kodak, a well respected company and brand for over a hundred years.  I  still recall my Mom’s Brownie and Instamatic cameras.

As we talked about the demise of Kodak, we both recalled witnessing a similar demise of Zenith and Bell & Howell while we lived in Chicago.  Former brand and marketing powerhouses that have all but disappeared in the ether.

Last week we bumped into an old friend that neither of us had seen in awhile.  Keith is a fabulous graphic artist.  As we caught up with each other, he explained that many of his small business clients had either closed their doors or were in the final stages of withering.  As a result, Keith turned to his photography and was doing well.

What all of these companies have/had in common – big and small – is complacency.

Keith’s clients – small business owners of brick and mortar stores – acted as if the 90’s would continue forever, even if it was 2008.  All they had to do was open their doors and the customers would continue to flow in.  These small business owners weren’t watching the marketplace or monitoring their own marketing efforts.  They weren’t aware of how the habits of their customers were changing.  They ignored giant clues and just kept doing what they had been doing.

Big companies seem more susceptible to the same sense of entitlement and the warning signs are identical.  The only difference is the fall takes longer and it involves a lot more people.

Many small and large business owners were caught flat-footed and ill-prepared for today’s consumer and for today’s marketing.  Some are gone forever.  Some are gone from my small community and perhaps from yours as well.  Some are still struggling.

What Is Complacency?

Complacency is that full and satisfying feeling of success that slowly engulfs us as entrepreneurs, middle management and as CEOs and lulls us asleep to what is going on around us.  Unfortunately, the feeling lingers on even when the success has long ago disappeared.

Complacency ignores opportunities, big and small.  It turns a blind eye to serious and dangerous threats.  It hushes innovative ideas.  It stomps on energy, enthusiasm and anything new.

It hangs on to the old ways of doing things with white, arthritic knuckles.  It doesn’t want to hear or see what is happening in the world.  Learning new things is not up for discussion.  It is of no concern to those who are complacent.

How can you tell if you/your company is complacent? 

Here are some questions you can ask yourself as a business owner to determine if you are becoming complacent.  Be as honest as you can be with yourself.  The only thing at risk is your business.

  • Is your business growing, standing still or dying?
  • When is the last time you updated your marketing materials?  Do they speak to today’s customers or yesterday’s?
  • When is the last time you took a serious and unbiased look at your competitors?  Are there things your competitors are doing that would be beneficial to your business?
  • Do you and/or staff spend any time talking and thinking about the changes in the marketplace, new competitors, new technology or do you just scoff at these changes?
  • Are you taking responsibility for the current state of affairs or are you too busy blaming outside forces?
  • Have you learned from failures and open to trying new initiatives?
  • Are you or your staff making decisions on critical issues or are you just deciding not to decide?
  • Are new initiatives given what is required to achieve success or are they being undermined?
  • Do you say, “we must act now”, but then don’t act?

If you found there is some complacency creeping into your business, then you’ll need to shake it up, turn it upside down and make waves.  Start embracing new initiatives and new ways of doing things.  Take baby steps until you get the hang of seeing the marketplace with fresh eyes.  You’ll find that by taking action, no matter how small, you’ll starting turning your business around. Step by step.

What are your thoughts about complacency?  Share them below in the comments section.


Sheila Hibbard

Sheila Hibbard takes the fluff, hype and confusion out of marketing and social media. She provides small business owners with straight forward, no nonsense marketing guidance and techniques that produce results based on her 35 plus years in advertising, communications, research, strategic planning and social media. Author of Marketing Online Made Simple - WHO.

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