The Comfort Zone

The Comfort Zone

I have a friend named Gene, a serial entrepreneur who currently runs a software business. Like many people, last year was a tough one for his company. They survived largely by providing add-on services to existing customers – a decent response to difficult circumstances. They even grew revenues a bit. But here’s something else that happened: They got comfortable. They decided they could exist on their base of customers, and then they “realized” there would be no new ones.

Is that bad? Isn’t that just accepting reality as it is?

It might not be bad, except that Gene’s people got used to the idea of “no new customers”, and it stuck with them. They’ve continued to draw revenues from this satisfied base, but lead generation and prospecting has remained almost nil. They are now looking at an empty pipeline, and unless things change soon, I’d say the forecast for the future is not bright.

There is a state of mind I’d like to acquaint you with known as the comfort zone. Perhaps you are already familiar with this insidious disposition. Did I say insidious? How can comfort be insidious?

You know, don’t you.

You get seduced by the status quo. You think things are pretty good the way they are. You like it this way, and you don’t really want anything to change. When I was a young pup at General Electric we called this state of being “fat, dumb, and happy”. And after a while, your progress grinds to a halt.

Comfort is defined as a condition or feeling of pleasurable ease.

You can become comfortable with all sorts of things – good and bad. You can become comfortable with your existing level of business – even if it is not quite as much business as you’d like. You know how to handle it, you can keep your staff size level – and you know how much profit you can earn from it.

Or you can become comfortable with your sources of business – even when your niche is shrinking. After all, you understand these types of customers. You know their personalities. You are familiar with how these particular people will react to your ideas. Isn’t this great, you think.

You can become comfortable with your competition – even if they are bigger or more nimble or just plain better than you. At least you know where you stand, right? And since you think their moves are predictable, you perceive a measure of safety.

And of course – as you can easily see – each of these situations is fraught with danger. If not right now, then soon.

What is so comfortable about the comfort zone?

It goes all the way back to pre-history. Human beings like regularity and predictability. Change is bad. Consider the existence of a hunter-gatherer – living life in the wild – every change in the weather