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Forgot Your Change?

One of my current obsessions is watching Trading Spaces on TV's The Learning Channel. It's a decorating show with a twist: Neighbors redo a room in each other's homes (with the help of a professional decorator and a carpenter), but the homeowners have little or no input about what's done to their own houses. The results are mixed; most people like their renovations, while others are reduced to tears. The participants take a huge leap of faith, giving over control of part of their homes to friends and strangers. The common thread is, all the homeowners obviously believe it's time for a change.

Are you open to change? Most people (especially entrepreneurs) say yes automatically, afraid they'll appear closed-minded (or not entrepreneurial) if they answer otherwise. But the truth is, while some people indeed welcome change, many more find it difficult to embrace--they fear the very idea of it. If you're going to thrive, you can't be one of those folks. As we point out in two articles in this issue, successful entrepreneurs are never content to rest on their laurels. No matter how accomplished they are, they're constantly seeking the next best thing--not necessarily a new business (though serial entrepreneurs are always on the lookout for these), but simply new ways to do whatever they've been doing. One of the very worst things an entrepreneur can say is "Well, we've always done it this way." Instead, brainstorm. Think of other ways to do it. Or other things to do.

Not that I'm advocating change for the mere sake of change. Well, actually, I guess I am. But as in all things, don't jump in blindly and just declare "We need to change things around here." Make sure you keep up with all the new developments in your industry and the trends that affect your target demographic(s). Keep your eyes and ears open (even in your downtime), and apply what you see to your business. And take a hint from the Trading Spaces folks. Swap opinions. Ask others what they think. Involve your employees in the process. You may be thinking "If it ain't broke . . ." I'm thinking more like noted consultant W. Edwards Deming: "It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory."

Let me switch topics here. I am often asked my perspective on how entrepreneurs think. And while I answer the best I can, I also say that all entrepreneurs cannot be painted with one brush. Your needs, challenges and actions are going to differ based on many factors, including revenue, company size, age of your business and your plans and goals. That's why I'm amused at some of the blanket statements I've been hearing on your behalf. The latest is that so many of you have decided to cut back on your plans for business growth so you can enjoy your life more. Pardon my saying so, but that's a crock. Yes, it's true for some of you. And that's fine. Deciding how much time you want to devote to your business is, well, your business. You have to figure out what works best for you and not what society deems is now permissible. It's not bad to want to grow your business. Whether you want to significantly grow your company or own a "cottage" business, far be it from me to judge you. But the Bill Gateses and Michael Dells of the world are hardly rolling back their plans. And most of the entrepreneurs I know are not downsizing their goals.

Yes, it's been a tough year for most of us. The horrors of last September 11 are imprinted forever in our hearts and minds. So many of us were affected both in our personal and business lives, and we're still reeling from the aftermath. While it is imperative that we never forget what happened, we must continue to move forward, to rebuild and rebound. Check out the personal stories of business owners who were directly affected by the terrorist attacks, and see how the spirit of America lives on.

Like this article? Get this issue right now on iPad, Nook or Kindle Fire.

This article was originally published in the September 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Forgot Your Change?.

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