Expert Advice for Medium and Midsize Businesses

Why Comfort Zones Are Business Killers

A comfort zone is a place that many people spend their entire lives trying to establish and inhabit. They design their comfort zones around material items, décor, foods, and people—and once a comfort zone is completed, almost no one ever wants to leave it. For small-to-medium businesses (SMBs), comfort zones can be deadly.

The 500+ members of the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs, an organization that helps business owners grow their companies at accelerated rates, are not allowed to build comfort zones. In fact, one of my daily responsibilities is to make sure our entrepreneurs never entertain the idea of building a place that allows them to rest on their laurels.

This may sound harsh, but it’s for good reason. Fast-growth entrepreneurs are among the most high-risk people in the world. If my organization allowed our members to get comfortable, they would become stale—they would lose the edge they need to succeed in business. Like a nagging middle-school teacher, I’m constantly asking them questions to make sure they stay sharp. The questions I ask prepare entrepreneurs for the headwinds they will inevitably hit as they enter uncharted waters. We prepare them to survive without getting blown off course or losing valuable assets on their journey.

One of the questions I ask is, “When is it time to pivot your business because of an obstacle in front of you vs. staying the course and simply moving past whatever is in front of you?” In most discussions, I tell them the answer can be found in three parts:

  1. Understand that there rarely is one answer to a question. You must explore all options to make sure you can choose the best one for your business. Your curiosity in turning over every possible stone for clues will greatly increase your chances for success.
  2. Read everything you can about your industry, market trends, and how events happening around the world can impact your business. This information, and examples of what other companies did in similar situations, will help entrepreneurs determine the best path for their company. Don’t waste money and resources trying to figure out the answers to your problems; countless companies have already dealt with similar issues and documented their results in industry publications or blog posts.
  3. If you’re curious and well-read, then you will know whether to pivot your business because the headwinds are too strong, or you will know you can get around the obstacle in front of you and keep pushing ahead. This knowledge helps reinforce the decision to never, ever quit.

A curious, well-read entrepreneur understands that a comfort zone may protect them from headwinds in the short-term, but it will ultimately lead to the death of their company. They must always move forward, never allowing success to soften their competitive edges or take their eyes off the road ahead.

For more insights from Cliff Oxford, listen to the latest SMB Experts podcast episode, How Technology is Disrupting Everything, where Cliff discusses the latest technologies and how businesses can benefit from them.

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