Discipline is the Difference Maker

October 24, 2019

When we think of behaviors used to describe an excellent company, discipline is not one that quickly comes to mind.

A few years ago, a young manager working for my company brought a new client to my attention. While this client did not fit our client profile, and the type of work they needed was not typical of the work we performed, it was a multi-billion-dollar company with a large market presence and the promise of future opportunities. I had my reservations, but this manager insisted he could manage both the client and the work successfully, so I agreed. A few short months later, the manager left our company. We were in a dispute with the client and the project was losing money. Even though we had taken necessary precautions, assessed our risk, and tried to educate ourselves, we still failed. We learned a valuable, but costly, lesson in the failure to exercise discipline. 

Companies prefer to describe themselves as flexible, open to new ideas and willing to embrace change. To describe your business model or company as disciplined sounds rigid and stiff, which is  unfortunate, and not accurate.

In reality, disciplined companies are the most successful companies. They are organizations that have adopted a plan and vision for a product or service and have remained true to that plan and vision over a period of time. They continually practice a high level of discipline in how they operate, produce their products, handle their customers and treat their employees. It’s no surprise these businesses succeed year after year. 

At my company, we do a very specific type of work for a very specific type of client. Several years ago my team sat down to determine why we exist, who we are and what we do. We spent a tremendous amount of time planning and developing a strategy to accomplish our goals and visions.  Exercising the discipline to stick to our vision and our strategy was just as important

Our discipline continues to be tested on a daily basis. Potential customers routinely inquire about our services. But many of these customers either don’t fit our client profile, or their projects are not the type we perform, so we say no. Some would argue we turn down opportunities to grow the business, expand revenues and possibly increase profits. We disagree. We have learned we are much more successful doing what we know and working for the right clients than taking on opportunities that are outside our plan.  

My greatest success comes when I’m disciplined in executing the strategies and plans for my businesses. Just as we resist eating that piece of dessert or the temptation to lie on the couch instead of going to the gym, discipline in business requires a level of deprivation, resisting temptation and doing what is difficult. We don’t change a strategy or plan simply because there are temptations that promise greater revenues and more profits. We give our plans the resources and opportunities to succeed. If they don’t, then we develop new plans and new strategies, and continue our discipline to adhere to the new plan. 

Discipline is one of the most difficult behaviors for a business to develop. But without discipline, plans and strategy are useless. Goals become meaningless, and vision is never realized. It may sound rigid and structured to describe your business as disciplined. But discipline is necessary for success, and I would much prefer to describe my business as successful over any other adjective.

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