No one could ever accuse Rhonda Kanet Chambless of being overly cautious.
Chambless, a partner at The Idea House, contends that companies willing to take risks are the ones that will reap the rewards. But there is an art to choosing which risks.
“It is a natural tendency for companies to hunker down during lean times,” Chambless says. “We call this working on the expense side of the ledger. Budgets are cut, the atmosphere is full of worry, and decisions are overanalyzed and stalled. Growth is about making investments, and slow times are often the perfect time to do so.”
Smart Business spoke with Chambless about how she keeps the momentum going in her company.
Q: How do you make decisions?
I’ve never had a problem being decisive. However, my tendency is not to make decisions by committee. I listen, observe, think over all the facts and move on them.
I am not impulsive but I don’t spend a lot of time second-guessing myself. It has been my experience that even a flawed decision is better than an overdue decision, where precious time is wasted and opportunity missed.
When you take action, at least you learn and find out what is going to work and what isn’t. Leaders who cannot make decisions efficiently and confidently tend to paralyze their companies. They do more harm than good in the long run.
Q: How do you balance the demands of the job with a personal life?
It is absolutely true that choosing to run and own a business is a lifestyle decision that requires the acceptance of much more hourly, mental commitment than working as an employee for someone else.
After 21 years, I can honestly say that on a day-to-day basis, weekends included, the majority of my mental hours are business-related. That’s just the way it is. As an entrepreneur, you have to accept that.
My way of balancing between the company and my personal life is to totally turn off the working mind when I am spending quality, set-aside time visiting my family or vacationing with my husband. Because those hours are so few compared to working hours, they must be completely void of work-related thoughts.
Carrying my cell phone or laptop everywhere during personal time does not work for me. I have learned that when I make a complete break, I am refreshed and ready to return to work when the time comes. If an owner says they just can’t remove themselves from work completely for periods of time, then they don’t have the level of staff in place required to run a successful business.
Even in a small company, no one should be completely indispensable for short periods. It’s just not good business.
Q: How do you recognize business opportunities?
I do what is called an environmental scan using the STEEP method. STEEP is an acronym for Social, Technical, Economical, Environmental and Political. During this process, we look at what is happening in each of these five sectors and how the current conditions affect our operation.
I also evaluate where each sector is moving to in the future so our strategic plan is married to the reality of the trends. Most companies do this sort of analysis intuitively by reading the paper and keeping up with current affairs. We try to take a more disciplined and focused approach than most, and I believe it has served us well.
It is my strong belief that business must continually take the time to look toward the future and anticipate threats and opportunities. It is so easy to be focused on the day-to-day tasks and not hear the footsteps coming. Everything is moving at light speed in our industry, and we cannot afford to become lethargic or complacent.
Q: How do you deal with fluctuations in your industry?
It’s simple: Build a staff consisting of people with the intellectual capital to adapt. Business clients will always need communication tools, but the mediums will continually change. We have to be able to turn on a dime and use different deliverables that will reach our target audience.
In the 1980s, television advertising on the major broadcast stations ruled the day. These soon took a backseat as cable television came into vogue, offering hundreds of viewing options, which ultimately segmented the general audience. In short, the goal is still the same. Deliver the advertiser’s message to the optimal target market for that product or service. What keeps changing is the best way to do that. So, you must adapt.
HOW TO REACH: The Idea House, (800) 243-0250 or www.theideahouse.biz