I am in a book group that’s reading Richard Rohr’s “Falling Upward – A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.” The premise of Mr. Rohr’s book is that the first part of life is a focus on learning how to do for ourselves through managing a career, picking a partner, etc. The second part of life is deciding who we want to be. The first part yields security while the second part offers fulfillment. I am struck by how well this discussion parallels the life of a business.

Mr. Rohr offers that a hazard in life is fixating on doing and the first part of life and never reaching for the fulfillment of being.  Every business has to start with an idea of what it wants to be. But with just a little bit of success, the entrepreneur must focus on “the doing” of building teams, process, and infrastructure. Management is a discipline focused on how to do things better. Just like people, perfecting how things are done can become a fixation and a source of false security. Managers can see planning as a distraction from “doing the real work.”

Any plateau or stagnation in growth can be traced to the owner and/or the company losing sight of what they want or need to be.  As a company grows, the owner must continually redefine their role away from doing and more toward leadership. A company must evaluate what it wants to be as they outgrow market niches or new competition and technology enter the market. Amazon would be an insignificant company if it remained just an online bookstore. It’s questionable whether Apple would still exist if they remained just a computer company.

Every new phase of growth at a company stems from an adjustment in what the company wants to be. Likewise, companies that resist reinvention usually find themselves on the slippery path of decline and blaming their sales and market staff for revenue shortfalls. Asking two simple questions: “Who am I targeting as customers and why will they buy from me?” can breathe new life and fulfillment into any organization. 

So….let me know what you think!

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