By Brian Mitchell, Managing Partner & CEO.
Inflection Points, by definition, come from math and curved conversion points where a derivative MUST go up or down. It’s quantitatively impossible to stay still or stay the same, the curve will go up (convex) or down (concave). It’s been said that a “business inflection point” is a time period when an organization must respond to disruptive change in the business environment effectively or face deterioration. The business MUST make a move. It doesn’t matter if the urgency is forced by technological innovations, obsolescence (eventual extinction), increased competition, commoditized price erosion, bigger better faster mouse traps, or maybe macro economic trends…like an unforeseen global pandemic. It only matters that leaders within the business examine the situation, evaluate strategies, and take action. A strategic inflection point might be a threat and reactive, but it’s also likely a phenomenal opportunity and a chance to be proactive in setting an improved winning course. Untapped markets, new industry sectors, expanding abroad, cross-selling a new solution which simultaneously increases revenues while anchoring client retention, scaling team members to increase volume, scaling back team members to increase profitability, or perhaps position the company for sale. Inflection points are very Darwinian in that it’s really “adapt or die”.
What about each of us? Our careers, goals, plans, and personal lives all meet inflection points and just like in business, they may or may not be our choice, but action is required. Our lives are not going to become fax machines, right?! I wrote a blog last month about adjustments after a difficult 2020, but now we are into 2021. Is it perfect? Hell no, but there is reason to share optimism – vaccines are accelerating, more PE and VC investment dollars are pouring into companies, unemployment isn’t great but it’s improving, winter is coming to an end. We MUST start with choosing to see the glass as half full. If our attitude isn’t right, the foundation of any inflection point changes we take will likely lead to a downward curve.
Here are a few self-inventory questions to consider as you evaluate your inflection point in trying to discern the actions to take towards ‘what’s next’:
- What are my values? Is my current professional/personal path aligned with my values?
- What are my strengths and weaknesses?
- What do I enjoy doing? How can I do more of it?
- What am I learning? What do I want to learn?
- When have I felt most successful? How did I achieve it? Was the journey enjoyable or just the result?
- Am I good at what I most enjoy?
- Where do I want to be personally/professionally a year from now? In 5 years?
- If you don’t start now, then when?
Tying what we most enjoy with what we are good at is critical for happiness. Whatever our individual inflection point, we need to consider more than just our income, existing skills or paths, and really discern what we want in and from our personal and professional endeavors. Do your personal priorities override your professional goals? Maybe you’re nearing retirement or have more altruistic passions driving you so your career should take a back seat. Or maybe you’re earlier in your career and want a family someday so now is the time to go heads down professionally to advance in your skills, company, income, and hierarchy. Here’s the critical element – it’s only about YOU. What someone else is or isn’t doing has nothing to do with your objectives and happiness. Nobody else is at YOUR inflection point. So what will you do with it? What deeper evaluative steps can you take to ascertain what is most important to you NOW? What strategies might you consider towards what you truly want? How will you get there? What actions can you take towards improving or changing to be more of the person or professional you want to be? I’m describing very large and potentially dramatic shifts, but they don’t need to be. In fact, committing to a few small changes can completely alter our trajectory as well and it’s often better to start small (but resolute!) and amazing outcomes can be achieved.
Failure to deliberate, plan, and act will never be anyone’s responsibility other than each of ours individually. The time is now to meet our inflection point and turn upward.