Are there alligators outside your door? Literally and Figuratively

When we concentrate on our business, we can forget about what is happening outside and around us. We can raise our own self defense mechanisms to blot out potential danger that could be lurking outside of our door. And when that alligator snaps his jaws, it can give you a wake up call.

A number of years ago, I went to a conference at a golf resort just north of Tampa, FL. My wife came along so we could turn the trip into a short vacation for us. During the conference, I was at the meetings and exhibits, while my wife was at the pool, getting some sun and some umbrella drinks.

On arriving at the resort, we were driven in a golf cart to our building from the lobby. Being midwesterners, when we saw an alligator sunning himself near the edge of one of the ponds, we were surprised. The driver told us that because of all the water, the proximity to the ocean, and the wilderness areas of central Florida, that the property had alligators.

"But", he said, "when they get about 6 feet in length we move them out further into the wilderness." And he followed that little bit of trivia with this, "When you are planning to leave your room" (we were on the ground floor) "or go out on the patio, look for alligators first." And then this for me as the golfer, "if your ball goes very near or in the water, leave it." He didn't finish the thought as he knew we caught the meaning.

To say the least, we were flabbergasted. Alligators? Outside the door? Up to 6 feet in length? Don't retrieve your golf ball if it's near the water? What the heck?

To further reinforce the reality of alligators outside the door, our patio looked out at one of the tee boxes for the golf course. Sure enough, there was an alligator sunning himself one day in the tee area. There was a bit of a backup on the course as you might imagine.

Why am I sharing this story with you? What does this have to do with your business?

Simple. There are alligators outside of your business right now. You may not be aware of them. They could be swimming or sunning near by and don't look like a threat. They could be almost completely below the water and you won't see them. Or they could be right there when you open your door. And as the warning signs say "do not feed the alligators.

"What are you doing to deal with your alligators?

The resort we stayed at had an alligator management program. First, making the guests know that they are there, they can be dangerous, and that you can avoid them if you are careful.

Second, when they get too big, or too aggressive, they remove them.

In essence, know your environment, scan for dangers, work to avoid the dangers.

And then, think about when your alligator gets too big, your troubles start mounting, what are you prepared to do to handle it? How did you handle your response to the pandemic crisis? Did that provide you valuable lessons for the next crisis? (It most likely won't be a pandemic, but history shows that there is minor crisis to the economy every 2-4 years with a major crisis every 5-8 years.) Have you taken those lessons learned and incorporated them into your plan?

Remember that a strategic plan, or any plan is just that, a plan.

It is not written in stone. It is the result of the thoughts of you and the other leaders in your company. A way forward based on a snapshot in time. It should be a living document that you refer to regularly. Add to it, subtract to it, change it. Stuff happens once you start working the plan. The key to your plan is thinking about your response when something happens to your plan.

If you are familiar with a SWOT analysis, (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) this would be the Threat portion of the analysis. There are the threats that you are directly aware of and have thought about. There are the threats that you are aware of but you don't really know what your response is yet. And then there are the threats that you are not aware of at all.

Click here for some examples of Threats and Weaknesses to your business.

Work with your managers and talk about the plans. Ask them what sort of plans they have thought of for when someone leaves, or a system goes down, or material doesn't show up. And also ask, what would happen in your department if sales increased by 50%? And what would happen if they dropped 50%. (These might seem extreme, but in the last year I have seem companies swing one way or the other and I have seen companies swing one way then the other in no time.)

By being a continuous learner, staying involved in the industry, staying familiar with who the competitors and what they are capable of, consider who might be competitors in the future, staying current with changes that might be coming in the industry or the economy, will help keep the alligators at bay.

Through all this, remember that you are supposed to be the Chief Executive Officer not the Chief Everything Officer. You have valued employees and they can actually add value if you let them. Work together to have an alligator management plan.

QUESTION: What was your biggest takeaway from this story, or from this post? Please share your comments!

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