Peering Through Business Fog

In the early morning hours, right after dawn, the motorist looks through the windshield to see nothing in clear focus with a gauzy, puffy whiteness allowing forms and shapes but little else until the car comes closer. The trip must be made, so the motorist sets a speed that allows room to brake for the unexpected but also is adequate for the required time of arrival. There is some tension in that calculation. The fog heightens the effort of perception. Different lighting is tested: brights-on, low beams, and fog lights. The passenger is concerned and alert – the other set of eyes on watch with the driver. Shapes and forms resolve into focus as the forward progress of the vehicle finally reveals the view of the road. Because of the fog more attention is paid to the act of driving, the view of the road is more focused, and the discussion between passenger and driver is about the road and what it is discernible. The driver thinks, “if I drove like this all the time, I would be a much safer driver. Even when it is clear, I should drive as if there is fog.”

For the business owner the analogy of the driver in fog is apt. Although the business owner does not see fog, there are important things not perceived because of elements keeping the owner from seeing the reality of the business and being too late recognizing threats to the success of the business. Moreover, the business fog is not just in one windshield but many, each with its own distortions and lack of focus. And there is an overall complicating element: when the business owner cannot see the fog the owner thinks the owner’s perception is in clear focus.

What makes up this business fog? The business fog is created when business associates tell you what they think you want to hear or what makes them look better rather than what is the reality of a situation. The business fog is enhanced when there are too few eyes trying to see the reality of the business and accurately conveying what they see to the owner. The situation worsens when the owner does not have the humility to admit that the owner does not see through the business fog any better than others in the business. The business fog is most dangerous when an owner will not admit it is there.

As a business owner, take the tact of the driver in fog. Take precautions such as slowing down, paying greater attention, seeing things into focus, and utilizing the other eyes of a passenger. The worst misstep is to not recognize the business fog is there. The business fog is always there even if you do not see it. Create a decision-making environment where the views of groups of business associates are considered. Understand and define the time to make decisions so that things are in focus when the decision is made. Realize that your vision is as subject to the fog as those decisions of your business associates. Do not go so fast that you cannot correct your mistakes in perception.

Think of the driver saying “if I drove like this all the time, I would be a much safer driver. Even when it is clear, I should drive like there is fog.” As a business owner realize the business fog and make decisions based on a carefully considered perception of reality.