Grass Is Always Greener

February 1st, 2010

Last week I was facilitating the quarterly check-in meeting with one of my oil and gas client’s teams. These 55 energetic folks are responsible for delivering $120 million in revenue this year. As you might imagine, they are feeling some pressure to execute efficiently. One person began her comments by saying, “Everyone needs to understand our industry is changing quickly…” The only thing I remember about the rest of her statement is it appeared she was trying to justify some of the challenges they’ve faced thus far.

My guidance was to suggest they not fall back on a “we’re different than everybody else” crutch. I mentioned the airline commission cuts of 1995 – and ultimate elimination a few years later – and how one-third of travel agents evaporated from the industry.

I asked how many of them would like to be a printer right now. No one volunteered. Then I said, “Imagine you work at Amazon. You’re sitting on top of the world with Kindle…until Steve Jobs introduces iPad. How are you feeling today?”

Evolution. Commoditization. Overcapacity. There will always be something that jumps up and disrupts the smooth road you’re walking.

I was the co-owner of a sports travel company during the commission cuts. People across the industry were screaming for a class action lawsuit. We took a different approach – gathering our leaders and asking, “What now?” It took about a year for us to discover a better path. Today, that business – which I sold to my partner – is a two-time recipient of the “Best Travel Company in North America” award.

Of course, there was a class action lawsuit regarding the commission cuts. We eventually received a check for about $1,000. Good thing that wasn’t the change we counted on for success.

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