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September 19, 2020
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Shining a light on the business blind spots

Smart and successful businessmen have faith in their vision for their companies, but they need to be aware of their limitations and see themselves and their situations in the proper light.

A failure to do this leads to the business blind spot, a place where we can’t see what is going on around us. It’s also a place where we see things not for what they are, but what we perceive them to be. It grows from a history of how things have always been done in the business and a narrow view of what the business needs going forward. On The Money Show with Bruce Whitfield this week, we discussed business blind spots, how they develop, what they cost your business and how to prevent them.

Recently, I met two business owners in their late 60s. Both started their businesses from the ground up, work hard and earn their success. But what perplexed me was that even with their wealth of experience, both were plagued by glaring blind spots preventing them from putting succession plans in place.

In fact, the global status of successful succession is bleak – 28% of businesses survive it and only 3.4% make it there.

Keeping it in the family

However, blind spots are extreme in the family context. Founders in their late 60s and early 70s don’t admit to their fallibility easily. They can’t tolerate change, but argue that they don’t want the next generation to change the way they’re running the family business because it’s too risky. The successors can’t see that the founders are fearful of risk simply because time is running out and change means risk. This cycle places both in a deep, dark circle of despair – and both generations know it, but feel helpless to change it.

We all suffer from them

Many successful businessmen overestimate their capabilities and have an infallible view of themselves. They surround themselves with a team that seldom disagrees and mostly offers opinions that support the boss’s views. They listen to reply, not to hear and they talk to an outcome but don’t back it up with a plan to act. They seem convinced that what and how they are doing things is the best course of action to grow their businesses even though the numbers don’t agree.

Luckily, there are some blind spot antidotes that we can embrace such as:

  • Have a big vision for the business and one you believe in. The vision then becomes more important than your ego, your being right rather than effective and it will require you to surround yourself with co-creators rather than subservient implementers. The different views on getting things done will shine lights on blind spots for the business.
  • Annually, do the turnaround steps to keep fresh, in the present and relevant.
  • Don’t surround yourself with yes-men. A few contrarian people whose views differ from yours is a good thing. Diversity in a team will bring on contrarian views for certain. Create a safe environment for people to intelligently contribute opinions. That means listen to hear when they are offered and be sure your team knows why the business exists and what its goals are.
  • Increase your self-awareness – understand that the way you project yourself might be viewed by your staff as bullying behaviour in your efforts to retain the status quo. A message will go out that even though you ask for an opinion, you never really engage with it.

As a business builds over time and as growth comes in, the complexity of the operation increases and your ability to change your way of working is crucial. Don’t allow your business to be sabotaged by blind spots. They can lead to a misplaced commitment to a selected course of action that can cloud your vision and stunt the growth of your business. If the destination is clear and there is a clear vision, you can get past the problem and deliver on the promise.

Aurik Business Accelerator will work with you to build, implement and manage a family business succession plan.

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