• Business planning and strategy
  • Entrepreneurship

Complacency in business is a dangerous game

Guest Blogger | October 22, 2012

Shauna Madsen, Madsen Ave, Edmonton, AB, CYBF Mentor

I wrote my first business plan in 1988 for the purpose of financing our startup. As in every business plan, we reviewed our risks and fully believed that we had thought of everything prior to opening.

The core of our business was brokerage printing and we were the first business in Edmonton to offer recycled stationery products to businesses in the region. Although we were on the forefront of a new trend, this was not an easy sell. There were only two types of paper at the time in a limited colour selection and our target market was environmentally conscious businesses, yet the acceptance was still slow.

We knew our product; we did our research and focused our newfound knowledge in our offering. We understood the recycling process and the environmental benefit of using our papers, and worked diligently to develop a loyal customer base. All of our own marketing materials were educational in nature and to this day were some of our most successful self-promotional pieces.

The environmental trend was building momentum and we were front and centre. During our first two years we were conducting television and radio interviews, featured in Alberta Venture magazine and the buzz and hype around our trendsetting product line was fabulous.

Then suddenly we learned why complacency is dangerous in business. We were so wrapped up in what we were doing; we hadn’t noticed that large stationery companies had jumped in with lower prices and a greater product mix. In a time span that seemed like overnight, the tap turned off. The wave we rode for two years quickly pulled us in to swim with the big fish and we were treading water.

That was a risk we did not see, before or during, but only after when we conducted an analysis and began our restructuring plan. I missed this risk during the planning phase; not only was our product green, so was I.

Today when I work with companies on their plans, I talk with them at length about potential risks in all areas of their business and how to offset those risks. Conducting an annual SWOT analysis (strengths & weaknesses, opportunities & threats) of their business and keeping an ear to the ground with respect to competitors certainly helps to prevent and mitigate the risk of losing market share.

Changing the lenses from rose to clear, is a good measure too. Self-analysis on a regular basis keeps us clear and focused.

About: Shauna Madsen teaches entrepreneurs how to develop marketing plans and formal business plans. She is the designer for Womanition and Vavasaur magazines and provides communication support to businesses. She has been an entrepreneur since 1988.