Is Now A Good Time To Rip That Band-Aid Off?

Nearing the end of a substantial advisory engagement, some clients ask me how to implement the changes that we've agreed on together. There's no doubt about what needs to be done, but there's a question about what the timing should look like.

Usually I'll suggest that we "limit the disruption" by prioritizing a few things and then just push the others to the back burner. Maybe two of your key mid-level managers need to be replaced and you concentrate there. The slightly overpaid CFO is doing a good enough job and you'll just deal with that later. Limit the disruption is often the best choice.

But there are times when you just need to yank the band-aid off, and that's actually the question I'll ask my client: "How do you take band-aids off? Do you yank them off and catch your breath, or do you slowly work them off little by little?" There's usually a clue buried in there and it helps me come up with a plan that the client is comfortable with.

There are times across our industry, though, that lend themselves to a temporary state of "rip the thing off". Those times come when:

  • There's already loads of disruption and there's no equilibrium that we are trying to maintain.
  • There's a larger "cover" for your decisions; a way to explain or justify the actions.

We are in one of those times right now. That's why you see big publicly traded companies doing massive one-time write-downs of their portfolio, discontinuing iffy product lines, and reversing transactions that had presumably already closed. They recognize that these opportunities come along every 10 or 20 years and they don't want to waste a crisis, as they say.

You may be in the same boat as they are, and here's why:

  • You've made a flurry of tough decisions already and you're in that mental space to keep making them.
  • You see reality differently than you did just a few months ago. There's a stark contrast between "must do" and "nice to do", and the sinking water level has you throwing non-essential furniture out of the boat so that you can navigate the bay without grounding your ship.
  • Your team will be less surprised--and maybe even more accepting--of the tough calls that you might need to make.

Think back to when you last moved. You probably cleaned out your belongings and found all sorts of things that you hadn't used in years. You donated them to Goodwill or had a bargain yard sale rather than paying movers to haul it to your new place...and just sit there for another ten years.

It might be time to find that same new clarity now. Here are some questions that you can ask yourself, and maybe even talk about as a management team or with a key advisor in your business life:

  1. How much do I enjoy what I'm doing?
  2. Is the heft of my firm, which translates into bigger, more serious client relationships, worth the additional risk of a machine that constantly needs fed at a rate of $xx,xxx per month?
  3. Where's the sweet spot of our service offerings? The very center is where I can answer any question that a prospect throws at me and I'm excited to dig in again with a new client. The other edge is where I'm tentative, have trouble defending our pricing, and worry about being replaced by the client or another firm.
  4. Have I been taking enough time off? Moving forward, what's the right balance?
  5. Where could I really build some competitive distance by innovating something that's truly proprietary?
  6. What tough choices do I need to make to transform this firm into a place I'd love working at into the indefinite future?

I don't know what those tougher choices for you might be, but this is one of those times when it might make sense to rip that band aid off. A little tornado came through and now your belongings are scattered in the yard. What new life do you want to build for yourself?

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