Are we boiling frogs?

Some of you may be aware of the analogy of the Boiled Frog told by my hero Charles Handy on the front cover of his 1989 book ‘The Age of Unreason’.

Just in case you missed it, the cover of the book says:

“If you put a frog in water and slowly heat it, the frog will eventually let itself be boiled to death.
We too, will not survive if we don’t respond to the radical way in which the world is changing”

So why am I going back to 1989? Well simply because I think the same message can still be applied to the fast changing world we face today.

I meet and talk to Managing Directors every day, and irrespective of industry  I see the same pattern occurring – it doesn’t matter whether the market is IT (IBM, Microsoft), Images (Letraset, Kodak) or Advertising (ITV, Newspapers). As technologies and markets change businesses need to change effectively too.  And whether they are successful or not boils down to how the Managing Director or Chief Executive responds to what initially appears simply as difficult times.

To me they seem to have have three basic choices.

They can keep their heads down, stick to what they are doing apart from minimising spend and hope to survive.

They can see the changing market as an opportunity and grow market share either by working hard to win business from failing rivals, or by acquiring those same rivals while their value is depressed (or non-existent).

They can take strong action to restructure their business around their strengths, possibly cutting costs in some parts of the business to realise the cash to fund the development of the good bits.

One strategy has the (potentially fatal) attraction of appearing to be safe and low risk. But for me it has a strong burning amphibian smell to it. For me, the other two strategies, both of which involve strong and difficult action and involve greater apparent risk are more likely to succeed. They just require strong leadership!

Which strategy are you following?

Bob Bradley

Bob is a specialist in running high value added service businesses, having run five such businesses as General Manager, Managing Director or Chief Executive. His last employed role was as Chief Executive of a £16M, 200 person family owned business having previously been Chief Executive of an AIM listed company for which he raised £5M funding and which he grew from £4M to £12M in three years through two acquisitions and organic growth, and a corporate PLC subsidiary where he was Managing Director responsible for delivering £10M profit on £45M turnover through 450 staff.

Bob is now following a portfolio career providing entrepreneurial business leaders with mentoring and coaching around business leadership, business growth, merger integration and exit planning.

Core to his portfolio is MD2MD. Having experienced for himself the value of having a strong sounding board of fellow Managing Directors he founded MD2MD in 2004 to provide groups of business leaders with a confidential environment within which they can support and challenge each other to raise their game as leaders and by doing so improve the success of their organisation.

More about Bob

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