Is comfort the enemy of business growth?

Despite now being over three years old, the smash-hit musical film “The Greatest Showman” remains both a playlist staple and an outstanding reference for the journey of the entrepreneur.

P T Barnum’s story is like many other entrepreneurs (perhaps a little less Hollywood) illustrating the huge (and numerous) highs and lows of being a business owner. Motivated by a number of sources there is no doubting his drive for continuous improvement and to do better each and every day.

The moment of the film that perhaps sums up the greatest business lesson is when Barnum seeks to bring in a ‘partner’ to his business. After a number of ‘shots’ at the bar, Barnum observes and shares a truth with his would-be partner that resonates with many “Comfort is the enemy of progress”. Whilst at first glance this might be an amusing quip, it has never been truer than it is today.

The uncomfortable reality

Even before the pandemic digital disruption and transformation was impacting every entrepreneur, in every business, of every size and in every sector. However, since the first lockdown in March 2020, the pace of digital change has simply exploded as businesses rushed to adapt to the ‘digital first world’ and the changing habits and expectations of consumers.

So, as the pace of digital transformation continues to accelerate, how should the entrepreneur of today respond in the post-pandemic world? It seems that another lesson from Barnum might help! For his show to continue to be a success P T focuses on the freshness of content i.e. new acts being added all the time – in short – CHANGE!

Change can be scary, but should not be for change’s sake and should not be at the expense of the core of success. Change should enhance, modernise and build on a successful foundation. Change should be seen and embraced as both positive and essential to the success of a modern business.

Of course, for every example of a successful digital transformation, there is sadly an exception to the rule and not a week goes by without another high street name admitting that they are struggling. The lack of change in the retail business model is – despite recent unlocking – still seeing town center and out-of-town footfall drop at an alarming rate.

Ultimately, too many businesses have not been comfortable to progress. Growth is being achieved, profit margins are acceptable and the business is holding up. But as new disrupters enter and original disrupters evolve the market, the ‘comfort’ begins to diminish. Being too comfortable in business causes a failure to respond which is, unfortunately, leading to business failures time and time again.