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You’ve probably heard the saying, “the only constant is change”- which means, basically, that we can always count on circumstances, business, life- to keep changing. The reality is that even though we know that change is inevitable, we still tend to resist it with all our might. We construct elaborate plans and routines and regimens and often fight any disruption to these plans. Certainly, I think that a certain level of routine is good, and there are definitely areas of your business you want to keep stable.

Like clients and cash flow, for instance- you want to be sure you have a steady base of clients and at least a steady base of income.

Aside from that, you might also have routines for how you work, when you work, and where you work. All of those can be supportive and good, too.

But there is a danger in waiting too long to make changes. There is a time where our routines and habits can keep us from responding appropriately when circumstances change.

And what I mean by that is this: if you are paying attention in your business, you’ll find that you often get advanced warning that circumstances are changing. Maybe your initial consultation calls don’t convert as they used to. Maybe you’re experiencing many more objections in your sales process than before. Maybe you are feeling hampered, stressed, rushed- or otherwise unhappy. Maybe your systems and infrastructure start to fail, but you keep patching up the leaks and the bleeding, because that seems easier to do than to start over.

Whatever it is, you will often get clues or cues that circumstances are changing. Most people, though, experience these changes- but keep doing whatever they had been doing (which isn’t working anymore.) We, as humans, often seem to do more of what we see isn’t working- we try harder. We work longer hours. We keep waiting outside of doors which have been closed to us– and so on.

The danger in waiting too long to make changes is that you become accustomed to the “not working” place. You lose your confidence and faith and become indecisive. Or, worse, you take drastic action in the wrong direction, and end up more stressed and worried than before.

So what’s the antidote to waiting too long to make changes? It’s to adopt a process of small, but important, innovation. So even when all is going really well in your business, you want to reserve a bit of brain space, a bit of cash flow, and a bit of time to focus on what might be next. It’s this idea of 5% innovation- where you take a little bit of your resources and start to develop new lines of thinking, connections, or infrastructure.

My guess is that the most successful entrepreneurs do this almost intuitively- they are often looking at where they are and what’s next. At the same time, they become accustomed to responding when problems are still small, rather than letting them play out over months and years to see what happens.

As a way of knowing when you need to respond to something versus letting it just unfold- I tend to think of it in the rules of threes. If three things happen in a row that are unexpected- i.e. three clients in a row don’t sign up with me, where I used to sign up 2 out of 3- I know that something has changed or is changing. That’s my clue to look at what might be shifting my results.

I have found, again, and again, that when I pay attention to the small problems, I can often hold off the bigger ones.

By paying attention to patterns in your business now, and innovating a bit at the same time, you will keep your business fluid and flexible- agile enough to weather the inevitability of change.