How to Extinguish a Fire

The fire started small enough, in fact there were three employees standing there when the match hit the floor.  Management did a quick poll when the lit match fell, and two of three employees believed that the fire would quickly extinguish.  But that was not the case; in fact the match stayed lit as others came in the room to watch.

There was a fair bit of discussion about the match and its ability to maintain enough energy to catch the carpet fibers on fire.  A formal meeting was called in haste and it was the consensus that it would require ideal conditions for the fire to continue on the carpet. Conditions were indeed ideal as the match’s small flame found a way to light the carpet fibers.

The fire continued to attract more attention now as there was a crowd gathering to observe the fire. “It certainly seems to be growing now,” was the remark of one of the employees that had arrived on the scene early. Head’s nodded around the room in agreement with the astute observation.  Someone in management then said, “This could pose a problem to us if it continues to grow.” “Oh, how so?” one of the new employees wanted to know.  The seasoned manager proceeded to draw an impressive graph that showed that as time increased, the amount of office that would be consumed by the fire would also increase.  Therefore, the fire would leave the office uninhabitable and each employee would be unemployed.  The young worker was quite impressed with the explanation.  “You just don’t learn these things in school young man,” said the manager, “it takes on-the-job experience.”

The fire was now causing many employees to back away as the heat was becoming a little too much to stand so close.  “I’m thinking something here” said one of the mid-level managers, “maybe we could do something to stop the fire.”  Several people looked at him for a moment and gave him a perplexed look.  “What do you mean?”  “Well the way I see it is, based on the graph, we’ll all be out of work at 3:57 pm today, but if we do something perhaps we can change the outcome. We can put the fire out with this extinguisher on the wall.”  “Brilliant!” was the remark from several around the room. “It’s settled then, we’ll do something.”   And at this, everyone felt at ease as they resumed their positions to watch the fire.

Needless to say, the fire continued to grow and grow and it wasn’t long before the fire that started with a small match had turned into a full blaze.  The employees began filing out of the building one-by-one and with a bit more haste in their step.  As they stood in the parking lot, they watched as the entire building burned down to the ground and soon there was nothing left but a smoldering ash heap.

The company president stood there in shock and said, “I don’t understand what happened, we said we should do something, we even knew what to do, why did the building continue to burn?” “Well,” said a young man from the mailroom, “Everyone knew what to do, you even had a good plan to stop the fire, but like everything else in this company, no one wanted to do anything but come up with ideas and a plan.  You can’t just plan you must do, and you can’t just have ideas, you must have action.”  The young man walked away, while the managers stood there trying their best to assimilate what he had just said.

Everyday businesses begin to slowly burn from the heat of competition or changing market dynamics.  The fires start slowly and are right there in plain site for everyone to see.  Astute management will look for ideas to counter the changes in the market and to out think and out work their competition. And there are some truly brilliant ideas that come out of these meetings.  But plans and ideas are nothing more than potential energy and will remain potential energy until you do and act upon these ideas.

If you identify one of your key markets simply won’t be there in 10 years that is a small fire.  As you put your energies into diversification you begin to extinguish the fire before it becomes overwhelming. You uncover a problem with quality or service, but do nothing other than identify it and watch it; the fire continues to grow. 

Convert your ideas into action – clear measurable action.

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