Go Slow to Go Fast by Christine Calvin

Have you ever walked into a semi-dried lake bed? You start out on firm sand, and little by little the ground gets softer and stickier and deeper until finally the mud pulls your boots straight off your feet. That’s the position of many companies battling today’s marketplace, particularly small-business owners set in their ways and family businesses unable to overcome Dad’s unwavering march into the ground.

As these companies have pressed forward into the 21st century using 20th-century approaches, the earth under them has become more viscous, slowing them down, pulling them under. Trudging forward against the headwinds of an ever-changing marketplace, more and more businesses are losing their footing.

As we all well know, today’s business landscape is more competitive, diverse and technologically advanced than ever before, and yet so many leaders are not. Meanwhile, I see third-party experts, business coaches and bright young employees shouting from the shoreline, pleading for a correction in course. I hear them urging their managers, directors and owners to consider new approaches, seek guidance and implement directives that could launch a company back onto dry land and a road to the future. And still, old thinking presses on.

PricewaterhouseCoopers invested in three major national and international surveys in the past 18 months to explore the most pressing issues facing family businesses, and in all three reports the chronic lack of succession plans and up-to-date processes and procedures rose to the top of companies’ list of concerns.

“Today’s business landscape is too complex and fast-evolving for family firms to rely solely on either first-generation entrepreneurial instincts or later generations’ tried-and-true wisdom,” wrote Rich Stovsky, PricewaterhouseCooper’s U.S. leader for private company services, in one of the reports. “In short, winging it won’t work in today’s business landscape. The family business leaders we spoke with for our survey acknowledge that they’ll have to adapt faster, innovate earlier and become more professional in the way they run their operations.”  

Unrelenting change requires an unrelenting commitment to learn and adapt. But knowing you need to change and actually implementing change are, of course, two very different things. Adaptation will involve capital investments in things like training and education, new or upgraded technologies and digitally astute (read: expensive) employees. It also might mean letting go of long-time employees who no longer meet the needs of a future-focused organization.

So how do you do that? Executive coach Tania Fowler (whose columns you can read on comstocksmag.com) would say, “Go slow to go fast.” There is no other way to implement lasting, systemic change than to give it the time and attention it needs. In this month’s stories on family business (“Strictly Professional” on page 52, “Sweet Succession” on page 40, and “The Gift Shop That Keeps On Giving” on our website), our writers delve into the muddy lake beds facing today’s companies and seek to understand how these businesses can best pursue change.

If you have successfully navigated this landscape of adaptation, tell us how. Send us an email, leave a comment online or give us a shout out on social media. As for me, I’m also seeking to grow and adapt. This month marks my last at Comstock’s. I’ve much appreciated your support and feedback over the past seven years, and I wish you all the best as you pursue a bright and prosperous future.

Tania Fowler

Tania grew up in San Francisco. She went to college at the University of California at Santa Barbara where she received her BA degree in Geological Sciences. Tania worked with Shell Oil Company in Houston, Texas in the early 80’s during the oil energy boom. She hit the ‘pause’ button on her work life to become the mother of three sons, thankfully not all at once, but one at a time. After staying home for twelve years and taking care of her precious, if not raucous brood, she received her real estate license and worked as a realtor for seven years in Sacramento, California, quickly reaching the select level of Masters Club. While selling real estate, she honed her communication, coaching, and people skills and decided that she was more interested in helping people realize their work dreams than their dream homes.

Tania has worked with hundreds of business executives and their teams, managers, and educators since 2005. She has received an Executive Coaching Certification from the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business Executive Ed Program. Additionally she trained with CTI (Coaches Training Institute) and NLP of California (Neuro-linguistic Programming). Tania has coached with internationally known business coaches Robert Hargrove (Masterful Coaching) and Mark Rittenberg (Corporate Scenes). She is also a certified Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator consultant specializing in Temperament and Interaction Styles. Tania has worked with numerous organizations including: CGI, Seagate Technology, EDS, California Public Utilities Commission, UC Berkeley Haas School of Executive Ed as well as many nonprofits and individual executives.

Interplay Coaching brings years of experience focusing on unbeatable performance by working with executive leaders and their teams to create a work environment obsessed with aligning their actions, communications, and leadership with their business purposes and objectives; essentially helping to build healthier organizations. Whether working with businesses or individuals Tania’s focus remains the same: to recognize and stand in the belief that the potential of an organization or an individual is even greater than what you see before you at any given time. If you want to be better she wants to help get you there.