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Best Company Traits: Constant Improvement

Complacency is the enemy of any business. Good enough is only good enough for so long before it’s not, before others not content to rest on their laurels have lapped your venture. Complacency can be a siren’s song for the uninitiated entrepreneur; after all, you’ve worked hard to get to the point you’re at, and why shouldn’t you sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor for a time? But ruin lies that way for those who follow too far down that path, become too comfortable with the status quo. You needn’t be constantly tearing up your work to start over again, but neither should you fall too deeply in love with an idea or product that you can’t see the value of iteration and improvement.  



The strongest and most successful companies, the ones we look to as models for our own, are miles from where they initially started. For those old enough, it wasn’t all that long ago that Amazon was simply a bookseller, or that Google was just a search engine, albeit the most popular one. Even the most staid of institutions have looked to expand what they can offer to customers; depending on where you live, you can now order your groceries online and have them delivered to your car. Every business is always looking for that extra enticement for customers, and while some of it might feel like gilding the lily, it’s a well-placed impulse that pushes companies to do more. 

That push for constant improvement requires a degree of humility on the part of founders, and companies as a whole; it’s an acknowledgement that nothing is ever perfected, or finished. That understanding doesn’t, and shouldn’t, stop any of us from trying to continually improve to draw ever closer to a target that we could never hope to reach. Even the brilliant Leonardo Da Vinci would return to his works time and time again, never fully satisfied that his creations met the inspiration in his mind. 

Maybe Da Vinci is a high bar to set for ourselves; truthfully, most of us would be content to be Bob Ross as artist analogies go, painting some “happy little clouds” and doing solid, if not transcendent work. The larger point is that we should all look to improve at all times, not only in what we’ve created, but in how we work and organize and think. Complacency is the enemy, and fear and doubt the companions we need: fear that we’ll slip and lose market share, doubt that what we believe to be right is exactly so. Too much of either is a recipe for your undoing, but in the right measure both serve as useful reminders that you’ve much left to achieve and miles to go before you sleep. 

Going about the process of improvement is an exercise largely of the mind. There are of course tangible things that can be done to improve your business, but it starts with thinking through what you’re doing currently and considering how it can be better. Sitting down with a pen and paper or a blank word document and pondering on what you can improve upon is a great start, but it can be limited by the scope of your own vision. To truly get an idea on how to get better you have to involve your whole team, the people who collectively see every aspect of your business down to the finest detail. It might be the case that there is some issue you’ve not fully considered, or an idea that an employee could present that you could have never come upon without the intimate knowledge that they’ve developed. 

Those are of course the internal forces that can help you improve; you can’t forget that there are external drivers that push you to be better as well. Competition is not only healthy, it’s necessary if any company is to achieve what it’s capable of. No one goes through the trouble of starting and growing a business to make just an okay product or one easily surpassed by others in the field. You made something that you want to be the best, and seeing what others are doing triggers that same competitive streak and pushes you to try and outdo your peers. You might not have the same resources as some of those you’re facing off with, but you have your ingenuity and determination, and the survival instinct that enables you to do more than you previously thought yourself capable. Look at what others are doing, and tell yourself that you can do better, even if you don’t necessarily believe it in the moment. 

The drive for improvement is taxing, particularly on companies without the resources or workforce to constantly return to the drawing board. But harder still is losing out on business because you grew too satisfied with what you’d accomplished thus far,  forgetting that success is never a permanent state of affairs, and that there is always someone aiming to take what you have. #onwards.


via Forbes – Entrepreneurs

October 15, 2019 at 08:31AM

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