The Dark Side of Success…and 3 Lessons Learned

There’s a Chinese proverb, “Failure is the Mother of Success”. Many of us work hard to achieve success, to “climb the mountain”, but in our efforts to get to where ever it is that we’re going, not only do we forget to look back and celebrate how far we’ve come – we also sometimes forget that the pinnacle can be the most dangerous part of the journey. For with great achievements can come hubris – the dark side of success.  And Phil Jaurigue has experienced that first hand.

Phil Jaurigue and two partners founded Sabre Systems, Inc. in 1989. Since then, the technology and engineering consulting company has grown to over 500 professionals operating both nationally and internationally.  The company has won the Philly 100 eight times, competed successfully with the likes of Lockheed Martin and Computer Sciences Corp, and is a well-respected company, in the region and beyond.

But if you ask Phil what’s been his biggest lesson of the last 25 years, Phil will tell you. “Beware of success. Don’t let it fool you. Success can breed some very bad habits.”

A Humbling Beginning

One of his most humbling stories occurred when the company was still less than $20 million and flying high with their successes to date. “We were definitely drinking the Kool-aid. We were going after bids that would have tripled the size of the company.  One was with a major defense contractor and worth over $100 million. We were sure that we were going to get it.  We had the finances, the team, the product…but forgot the most basic ingredient – you need a message that will resonate with the customer, you need to understand what they really need, what their pain points really are.”

Phil shakes his head remembering.  “We probably spent nine months pulling together the bid, creating a team of fifteen companies.  In the end we put all of our eggs in one basket for a year…so much so that we overlooked a number of smaller opportunities that could have kept us moving forward. We forgot one of the most important commandments of business – KNOW THY CUSTOMER.”

Good business practices aren’t about taking short cuts and forgetting the basics. As Phil has said to me several times, “It’s all about the basics.”

3 lessons learned – about the Dark Side of Success.

1)      Don’t let success blind you to the potholes – Patting yourself on the back is all well and good but at some point stop looking behind you and look ahead to see what’s coming.

2)      Do your homework – When it relates to your customers and your market, makes sure that you’re getting the data you need and not making assumptions. (More on this and some great tools to help you – in my next post!)

3)      Don’t overlook opportunities for smaller game when you’re hunting elephants – A big contract is a fabulous win but it’s the steady flow of cash that keeps a business growing sustainably.  Make sure you have both bases covered.

 

Is your company a growth business like Sabre Systems?  Have you been successful despite the odds over the last few years?  If you’re ready to do your homework and ensure your success going forward – consider reaching out to us about a “Scaling Up” engagement.

You’ll come away with:

* A solid One Page Strategic Plan plan to focus you AND your team

* An overview of the Four Decisions (People, Cash, Strategy, Execution) that you must get right to create sustainable growth and…

* An aligned, committed and enthusiastic team, ready to hit the ground running in the coming year!

For more information click here.

 

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