Guest Column: Don’t Get Stuck in the Ruts of Success

(Stuart Cross is a member of the Mentor Hall of Fame, a graduate of the Million Dollar Consulting® College, and one of 30 global Master Mentors. He is based in the U.K.)

Don’t Get Stuck In The Ruts Of Success

by Stuart Cross

Nothing fails like success.

Many companies struggle, not because they are bad at what they do, but because they are great at what they do. Kodak’s decline, for example, hasn’t resulted from the company being poor at film processing, but because it is great at film processing.

Or take Olivetti. It is now a small, loss-making subsidiary of an Italian telecoms business because it was great at making electronic typewriters, not because it was bad at it.

The problem that these and countless other competent companies have faced is that things change; markets change, the economy changes, technology changes and customer tastes change. Unfortunately many companies are either unwilling or unable to change their offer or their organisation as quickly as their external environment changes.

It is the same for consultants, trainers and coaches. Relying on your past and current successes – whether they are particular programs, services, clients, or capabilities – for your future growth is likely to result in a performance plateau and an eventual decline.

I know of a consultant, for instance, who published a book five years ago and had tremendous success in selling related training and development programs. He was so successful that he has come to rely completely on sales of the book and programs for his income even though, over time, interest and business has waned.

You have no option but to constantly re-invent yourself and your business. Here are 5 steps you can take to ensure that you don’t get stuck in the ruts of success:

  1. Continue to set new and higher goals. Decline often starts with satisfaction with your current level of performance. You must continue to raise your sights and your expectations and then find new ways to achieve them. This doesn’t simply mean setting financial goals. Chad Barr, for example, recently stopped me in my tracks by saying that, as consultants, we shouldn’t be focused on reinventing our business, but on reinventing our clients’ businesses. That statement has made me completely re-evaluate the work I should be doing. What new goals would enable you to break out from your current sources of success?
  2. Pursue adjacent markets and services. You don’t need to reinvent your business in a single leap – you can take a series of incremental steps. If you develop strategy, for instance, you could offer implementation services, and if you coach executives you can offer team coaching. What adjacent markets, clients and services could you pursue?
  3. Invest in yourself and your capabilities. You should build on your strengths, but that doesn’t mean simply relying on your existing skills. How can you further build your capabilities to enable you achieve more for your clients and to reach new markets?
  4. Embrace technological change. At a recent Million Dollar Club meeting with Alan we discussed the growing importance of “wisdom-on-the-go”. Our clients want access to ideas and insights at their convenience, and not just when they are sitting at their desks. The future of technology is mobile, as demonstrated by the explosion in apps. In what ways can you provide your value in more convenient ways to your clients?
  5. Be prepared to fail. The key to success is not to avoid failure but to fail as quickly and cheaply as possible. What are some immediate, low risk steps you can take to test new ideas and see what works so that you can rapidly develop new income streams?

Stuart Cross is the president of Morgan Cross Consulting, where he helps clients including Avon Cosmetics, GlaxoSmithKline and Alliance Boots to dramatically accelerate growth. His new book, The CEO’s Strategy Handbook, is out now. You can find out more by visiting his website at

© Stuart Cross 2011. All rights reserved.

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