Pick Your Course
The road gets your mind engaged. I'm on an airplane to my third trade show in six days, sitting in another airplane running around the country. The airports become familiar, as it becomes easier to weave your way through to your gate when you even know which spot to grab some food on the way.
This trip put me in front of customers in North Carolina, presenting to a group of CPAs about the benefits of virtualization. From that hotel I made my way to The Big Easy, presenting on a pair of panels, first on virtual IT and then on best practices on virtualization. From here, I'll be helping on a panel on Cloud Computing in Las Vegas. My iPhone has been pounding out music to keep me moving as I now have seen five airports.
What was striking so far is the confusion. The airports and the conferences both have elements of chaos, but the conferences reveal the more relevant ones. Our industry remains a rapid paced arena of change, and we struggle to keep pace with the confusion. Consultants and customers both are left with an array of directions to drive their business, with new options presenting themselves on a continual basis. Everyone remains scared of making "the wrong choice."
Every new opportunity presents the concern that a wrong choice will result in peril. If you make a mistake, will you lose? Will you and your business be unable to recover? With the continual talk of "the cloud", being left behind leaves the continual fear of that impending doom.
While I would never advocate ignoring change, at times it feels like we are too much in fear of making that mistake. Mistakes, while costly, are often the only way to learn what works and what doesn't. Being afraid doesn't drive success, but being unafraid of failure often does.
Opportunity lies in being willing to try, even at the risk of failing. I like to tell my staff that choosing not to do something is a choice, and the difference is in that fact that it was a decision and not a surprise. With all that is changing in our industry on a continual basis, the fear of failure can be overwhelming. Instead of being afraid, pick your path and go.
Make course corrections. Adjust as you go and make the necessary adjustments, but moving is better than not.
I have colleagues who run very successful businesses, making significant profit selling hardware. They have that business figured out. They aren't ignoring the world around them, but instead forging ahead in business. They watch and learn, they understand and can speak very intelligently about the "forces of change" around them and the death of the hardware sales business.
But rather than be afraid, they march forward. They run their business intelligently, watching the metrics and adjusting their business to find continued success. That doesn't mean throwing away everything, and it also doesn't mean being afraid that it will go away. It means being smart and finding new opportunity and building on success.
It would be disingenuous to tell these guys to abandon their very profitable business. Declaring the death of the hardware business for these guys would be, to be blunt, stupid.
There is a lot of fear in the market. Our customers feel it, our vendors feel it, and our colleagues feel it. I've heard a lot of it in the past few days, and more than the technology discussions, I've been struck by the fear. Customers are afraid they are missing out, and partners are afraid their business is going to be swept away. But being afraid can paralyze, and this is the the worst possible approach. Change or not, move in a new direction or try more of what you have been doing. More important, pick your course.
Once you do, know what success is for yourself. Then measure. It will either work, or it won't. Sometimes it really is that simple.
I'm glad for the comfort of the "next song" on my iPhone. It means I can move on from a bad choice, and sometimes it really is that simple. Making decisions doesn't have to be the end, and not something to be paralyzed by.
Dave Sobel is the founder and CEO of Evolve Technologies, a consulting firm that provides information technology (IT) and computer networking services to the small business, faith-based and nonprofit communities in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia.