Do you remember about 7 years ago, everywhere in the news were reports that we we’re going to run out of oil within 10 years. It was on TV, newspapers, magazines, and blog posts.
Suddenly there was an emphasis on alternative fuel sources, electric cars, grants for solar energy and a drive to efficiency.
Well it’s 7 years later – how come we aren’t in a count down with dire circumstances? Why isn’t the news full of reports of fuel shortages?
Was the reporting 7 years ago misinformed? Misleading?
Not really. Based on the technology of the day and the oil and gas consumption rate the prediction 7 years ago was accurate.
However, the constraint of oil shortage caused a number of things – increased oil & gas efficiency, increased interest and investment in alternative fuel sources, increased technology for finding, accessing and converting oil.
Now, with current technology according to forecasters there is at least a hundred year supply.
So were the reports 7 years all for nothing? Not at all! The constraint caused awareness, efficiency and investment.
As a general rule, we don’t change unless we have to.
Either we have powerful goals that pull us forward, or we have challenges or constraints that drive us.
So how do constraints translate into business building?
Constraints, when harnessed, lead to business innovation.
There is a chain of organic grocery stores on the east coast of the United States called MOM’s Organics. Before 2008 their business model was all about expansion – adding new stores on a regular basis.
But in the fall of 2008, following the market crash and debt crisis (especially in the States), banks we’re not lending, even with MOM’s business success track record.
So the owner of MOM’s, facing the constraint of not having access to equity to buy or set up new locations, instead turned his attention to increasing the efficiency and profitability of his existing locations.
In other words, he turned inward to focus on growth rather than expanding.
Working with his team, they identified profitability of product lines, increased performance and workflow, negotiated vendor price reductions, and looked for inefficiencies.
The bottom line was they had their most profitable year in 2009 and strengthened the foundation of their business so that when they received investment funding again they had even stronger growth performance.
As frustrating as dealing with constraints in your business are, if you view them as an indicator, you can harness the constraint to innovate and drive your business forward.
- Identify current business constraints and frustrations – make a list
- Working with one constraint at a time, look at what the constraint is indicating – what is working, what isn’t working, what are new options or ideas? Challenge yourself to look at the issue from different angles.
- Include your team in the discussion.
- What is the innovation or new way forward?
- Create a strategy and action plan
Your growth will come from transitioning the constraints to innovation, efficiency and simplifying what you do internally in your company, and externally what you offer your customers.
So next time you feel constrained or frustrated in your business, ask yourself “what is this situation showing me about my business? How can I turn this constraint into growth?”