Running a successful business is an ongoing journey that requires constant evaluation, innovation, and adaptation. While stability and predictability can be comforting, it is essential to assess whether you are genuinely progressing or repeating the same patterns year after year.
Embracing tension in your business can be a powerful catalyst for business growth, driving you towards achieving happiness, healthiness, and success.
In this article, we will explore the significance of tension in business and how you can leverage it to align your personal vision with your business vision.
What is Tension in Business?
Tension in the business context refers to the constructive discomfort arising from a gap between the current state of affairs and the desired state. It is the space between where your business currently stands and where you aspire it to be.
While tension may evoke feelings of unease, it is a crucial driver of innovation and progress. Without it, complacency can set in, hindering growth and causing your business to stagnate.
Of course, as it can make you, as a business owner, feel this way, it’s absolutely crucial that you build tension in a health way, that allows you to continue on a strong upwards trajectory without leaving you feeling overwhelmed or concerned for the future.
We’ll explore how you can recognise and address the areas of tension in your business, and look at how you can utilise it in a way that is conducive to growth.
There are three areas of tension that all businesses face – Short Term vs. Long Term, Whole vs. Parts, and Profitability vs. Growth.. Successfully managing these tensions requires strategic decision-making, clear priorities, and a deep understanding of the trade-offs involved.
In order to nurture these tensions and utilise them to become successful, you must strike a balance between short-term imperatives and long-term visions, optimise both individual parts and the whole organisation, and find ways to maintain profitability while investing in sustainable growth to thrive in a dynamic and competitive business landscape.
It’s no easy task, but with a more understanding of what they are, you’re one step closer to creating tension in a healthy way.
1. Short Term vs. Long Term:
The tension created between short-term and long-term objectives is a fundamental challenge that businesses encounter. Short-term goals typically focus on immediate results and outcomes, such as meeting quarterly targets, generating quick profits, or addressing pressing operational issues. On the other hand, long-term objectives involve strategic planning, investing in innovation, and building sustainable competitive advantages over time.
Any tension between these opposing objectives arises from the inherent trade-offs involved. Emphasising short-term gains may lead to decisions that prioritise immediate profits but could neglect investments in research and development, employee development, or market expansion. Conversely, a strong focus on long-term strategies might require sacrificing short-term profits or enduring uncertainty until those strategies come to fruition.
Examples of short term vs long term tension:
Short-term: Offering steep discounts or running frequent promotions to boost sales in the current quarter.
Long-term: Investing in employee training and development to build a skilled and motivated workforce for future growth.
2. Whole vs. Parts
The tension between the whole and its parts involves finding the right balance between optimising the overall organisation’s performance and focusing on the individual components or departments that make up the business. The “whole” represents the entire company, and the “parts” refer to its various functional units or teams.
Tension emerges when optimising the performance of individual departments or units might not lead to the best outcome for the organisation as a whole. For instance, one department might cut costs significantly to meet its budget targets, but that decision could negatively impact the overall quality of the products or services offered by the company.
Examples of whole vs parts tension:
Whole: Streamlining cross-functional collaboration and communication to improve overall efficiency and productivity.
Parts: Each department working in a silo and focusing primarily on its individual objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs).
3. Profitability vs. Growth:
The tension between profitability and growth revolves around balancing the pursuit of short-term profits with the need for sustainable, long-term expansion and market share capture. Businesses strive to be profitable to ensure financial stability and generate returns for stakeholders. However, sustainable growth is essential for staying competitive and capturing new opportunities.
Often, investment in growth initiatives, such as research and development, market expansion, or acquisitions, might initially decrease profitability. Conversely, focusing solely on short-term profitability might hinder investment in future growth and innovation, leading to missed opportunities and potential competitive disadvantages.
Examples of profitability and growth tension:
Profitability: Cutting down on research and development costs to boost immediate profitability.
Growth: Allocating resources to enter new markets or invest in emerging technologies to secure future growth prospects.
So how do you look to build tension healthily?
Assessing your current position
One of the key questions you need to ask yourself as a business owner is whether you are genuinely making progress or merely repeating the same year over and over again. It’s easy to fall into a routine where you follow established patterns and strategies, but this can be detrimental in the long run. Continuously challenging the status quo and embracing new approaches can lead to breakthroughs and transformative growth.
By thinking about this and the points of tension you are facing as we’ve outlined above, you can assess whether it’s time to make a change to the way you approach them.
Understanding your current tensions
While revenue and profit are essential, it is equally important to question whether your business is growing in the right direction, and whether your tensions are in balance with one another. Are you expanding your customer base or just selling more units? Are you fostering brand loyalty in the long term? Are you creating meaningful impacts in your industry and community?
While you might be making higher sales in your current quarter, what are you doing to promote growth in the long term? By thinking about the three points of tension above, you can start to understand which side of these tensions you’re landing on and whether you need to make any changes to break out of your plateau.
Making Time for Happiness and Healthiness:
In the pursuit of business success, personal well-being and happiness is often neglected. However, an unhealthy and unhappy leader can eventually impact the entire organisation. By working on dynamic between the points of tension we highlighted above, you can strike the right balance that leads to further success.
But, for a business leader, there is often an unwritten fourth tension between personal health and business health. It can often feel like working every hour and prioritising work is more important. It is not, to get the best results for you and your organisation, a balance needs to be struck.
To achieve this balance, prioritise self-care, and make time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Whether it’s pursuing hobbies, spending quality time with loved ones, or engaging in mindfulness practices, these activities can re-energise you and enhance your decision-making abilities as a business leader.
Aligning Personal Vision with Business Vision
True fulfilment comes when your personal vision aligns with your business vision. When your business is an extension of your values, passions, and purpose, it becomes a source of intrinsic motivation and satisfaction. Creating tension between your personal aspirations and your business objectives can help you assess whether they are in harmony or require realignment.
Take time to reflect on your long-term vision for both your personal life and your business. Identify the common values and goals that can bridge the two, making them mutually reinforcing. By aligning your personal vision with your business vision, you can infuse your work with meaning and purpose, making the journey all the more rewarding.
In conclusion, embracing tension in your business can be a powerful driver of growth, happiness, and fulfilment. It pushes you to question your progress, challenge your current practices, and align your personal aspirations with your business goals. By making time for your well-being and ensuring that your business reflects your values and vision, you can create a thriving enterprise that brings you not only financial success but also a profound sense of accomplishment and contentment. Embrace the tension, and let it guide you on the path to success and happiness.