Winning in Navigating a Maze

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Walking with both arms fully extended and eyes on the lookout for the right step forward, I navigated through the mirror maze with excitement, caution and determination to exit the maze with no bruising nose. The “Alhambra” Mirror Maze in Lucerne’s Glacier Garden has 90 mirrors set on 124 triangles. To avoid colliding with my own and others’ mirror images, I needed to do three things. First, use my arms as detectors for mirrors. Second, determine where my next step is headed. Third, keep moving to avoid crowds as the additional images make the task more challenging.

The same principles apply to achieving success in business. Beware of changes in the marketplace, make sound strategic decisions and focus on moving forward are key ingredients to building a successful business.

1. Beware of changes in the marketplace

New products and services are launched every day. Customers change their consumption pattern and behaviour. Companies that are not viewed as competition today might become a fierce competitor. The resulting impact on business could be unpredictable.

To avoid being blind-sided, companies need to be on high alert on changes in the marketplace. Changes in industry trends, competitive landscape, customer needs and characteristics, suppliers, regulatory and legislative issues could have dramatic impacts on a business. Therefore, market research is critical. In addition to market research, an effective approach to keep pace with marketplace changes is to have an ongoing dialog with customers, suppliers, regulatory bodies and others who have a role in defining the playing field. A good rapport with these stakeholders elicits candid and insightful information. Proactive monitoring provides the market intelligence that a business must have for planning and preparation for the inevitable changes.

2. Make sound strategic decisions

Strategic decisions are choices that facilitate achievement of a company’s long-term goals. They are not adhoc decisions made to deal with an immediate problem or decisions made for convenience sake.

Making sound strategic decisions requires a clear understanding of long-term objectives, an unbiased assessment of current business position, an open-mind on exploring opportunities, and a thorough review of risks. This takes more than gut feel. By exercising some discipline in gathering pertinent information and performing the proper evaluation, a company is rewarded with congruent decisions and integrated action plans. As a result, the company avoids draining invaluable resources on disparate initiatives. Take note that gut feel has its merit but it is not going to be adequate to justify critical decisions that take a company on a path to success.

3. Focus on moving forward

While I was walking through the maze, the navigation got more challenging as the corridors became crowded with people. There was no space for me to extend my arms and I had to rely on my sight only. Each step took a little longer.

Similarly, a growing and profitable market attracts new comers. Returns diminish as competition becomes more intense. Hence, it is important for a business to continue to innovate, to grow the portfolio of offerings to existing customers, and to expand the market the business serves. To take a business to new heights, the company needs the right people who make the right decisions, develop the right action plans and diligently monitor progress proactively. Of course, be prepared to change course when necessary but do not stall.

Stalling is a slow death in business. Competition moves up quickly when their target is easily identifiable and is in a constant state.

Just like walking through the mirror maze, there are uncertainties but with good business insight, sound strategic decisions and focus on moving forward, propelling a business to new heights is within reach.

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