Season 4: Thriving in a changing world

Les McKeown Founder & CEO, Predictable Success

Constant change is here to stay

After launching over 40 businesses myself, then co-founding an incubation company that helped other people launch and grow their own businesses, it took an 8-hour train journey in Switzerland to finally bring home to me the single most important realization I ever had as a growth coach and consultant. And it’s this:

Constant change is here to stay.

It’s not a phrase I made up­—it was right there in the book I was reading at the time (Future Shock by Alvin Toffler, still a classic), but seeing those words in black and white brought into clear focus what was to become my life’s work.

In that moment, I realized two things: 

First, that even though I was sitting alone, still and undisturbed in my railway carriage, that for the whole eight hours of my trip, the scenery and surroundings around me were constantly changing.

Secondly, and more importantly, it dawned on me that launching and growing a business is exactly the same. Even though you might not realize it at any one point in time, as your business grows, the scenery around you is changing constantly.

Eventually that one realization evolved into the growth model that became the core of my book, Predictable Success, and taught me these three important lessons:

  1.  You need to know where you are on the journey.
    All of us—whatever our age, gender, ethnicity or belief system—have one unifying characteristic: we are all somewhere on the same human lifecycle. Me, my daughter and my grandson all differ in many ways, but we are all somewhere on the human lifecycle (obviously I’m further along than both of them, but we needn’t discuss that).

    Business is exactly the same—your business may be very different from the (bigger, or smaller) one across the street, or the multi-national that dominates your industry, but you are all somewhere on the same lifecycle—just at different places.

    What’s important is that you know where you are on that lifecycle—because only then can you truly make sense of the scenery that’s seemingly changing every minute.
  2. You need to know your direction of travel.
    One of the most powerful things about being on a predictable lifecycle is you can anticipate what’s coming next.

    Just as infants become children, who turn into adolescents, then (usually) into adults—once you know what stage your business is at, it becomes possible to anticipate the next stage of development you will go through, in turn making it much easier to understand and accept the associated (and unavoidable) change.
  3. You need to know where you want to get to.
    Unlike the human lifecycle, with your business, you get to choose what stage of growth is your final destination. And once there, if you make the right choices, you can stay there indefinitely.

    At its most straightforward, you have two choices: to stay in the stage I call “Fun”, where you retain maximum personal freedom and autonomy, or to push into the stage I call “Predictable Success”, where you can scale the business to whatever size your industry will allow, but for which you must trade much of your personal freedom and autonomy for the adherence to those systems and processes needed to achieve scale.

    Once you have those three insights: where you are on the lifecycle; your present direction of travel; and where you want to get to, change transforms from a paralyzing blur of confusion to a constant, more predictable consequence of your chosen journey.

    Bon voyage!

    PS If you would like to know more about the business growth lifecycle and find out what stage you’re in (and what’s next for you), you can take this short, free quiz.