Recognizing The Doom Loop
The Truth About Business Depression
By Manuel Palachuk
I was having a discussion with a small business owner a few weeks back about how their business was progressing. The sentiment was this: We’re making it through the day. I thought about it for a minute and then I began asking some probing questions, as I’m prone to do: What are the roadblocks and big issues? Are you losing clients or gaining clients? What does the revenue look like? And so on. Everything about the picture that came into view for me was indicating that the business was in a doom loop. And when I indicated so to the owner, the reply I received was, “I know, and I’m doing everything I can to stop it.” To that I asked, “What’s your strategy?” The ideas that followed were not the description of a strategy, but rather a short list of goals and some great intentions.
It has occurred to me many times that there are businesses out there that are in the very same scenario – moving along and thinking they are getting somewhere, when in fact they are in a doom loop but just don’t recognize it. How would you know? And how would you get out of it? The answer to me is simple: Strategy!
If you’re operating your business without a strategy, you’ve basically put together a group of people, assigned them the label Team, and marched them out onto the field to play ball in the big league. They may be talented, but do you have the right people in the right roles? Well before that, what is your vision of how it will look if you win? Do these people care if you win? Is your mission to win a series or just this one game? What about the culture of the team? Do all of these people even belong on the same team? And so on and so forth. You might be surprised by what it takes to put together a real winning team in professional sports. And if you look on the inside, I promise you the management strategy for winning the top prize is not simply “just get a win today”. That’s called a tactic, and it’s a nice sentimental chant, but it’s not a strategy.
Strategy is formulated to couple everything critical in the business together and get everyone on board and facing the same direction. Goals are typically the end result of a single initiative, whereas strategies are linked initiatives that have specific details about every value aspect of the business including metrics for gauging their success. Therein lies the key! If you’re operating your business according to the defined strategy, you will absolutely know if you are off track let alone in a doom loop. And provided you have the discipline to execute on your strategy, you will not let it get too far off the desired course before you make the necessary corrections to get it back on track.
If we have set metrics to gauge the success of an initiative and then find at end of one business quarter that we are far from meeting them, who wouldn’t regroup and either adjust the metrics or refine the strategy that underlies the initiative? Hopefully you would. And the key is in defining the success criteria and the limits. Tactics win battles, strategies win wars.