Business Surfing: Riding the Right Wave

Nowadays, if you spend 4-5 years in any kind of business environment you will figure out that almost everything happens in cycles.

Certain industries grow and then, they stagnate or go into decline. Companies grow or expand geographically, and then they decide to reduce their footprint and reduce the number of people. Some roles in the company are very much wanted at certain times, and then a few years later the companies say goodbye to all the talented professionals they previously wanted. This has probably always been the case, but in today’s business it goes very fast. And it accelerates, making those cycles shorter and shorter.

During my 15-year long career I have seen and experienced several interesting cycles. Huge growth of media industry for example, and then deep dive after 2008 when some markets lost up to 50% of their revenues. Joining huge organizations that decided to reduce the number of employees by 20 or 30%. At the same time, they were employing new people of a different profile. Markets being hungry for CFOs, later moving toward markets that want to have only controllers. It’s about business needs, but also global trends, global economy and politics.

One of my favorite examples is the amazing concept of shared service centers. Many big companies introduced this concept. First, they started working on it and planning it. Spending a lot of money on consultants and project teams. Then they introduced it with major redundancies on local markets. Only to realize, after a few years, that it’s not really working and that a number of people in the shared center became the same as previous total number of people on the markets… So, the company decides to dismantle the shared service center… Just until they decide in a few more years to create the new one with a new brilliant concept!

It’s a wave after wave. Sometimes even a tsunami. Rarely can we see a peaceful sea nowadays. But you know the words – no waves – no glory!

So, what can we do about it?

If you are not a powerful and influential game changer, a CEO of a major international company or an innovator that can change the world (I would like to believe that people of that kind read my blog, but I’m also quite realistic J), if you are not the one making the waves – then you have only one option: to ride the right wave!

I believe that people can have more than one career today. In business, we can change companies, even industries and roles that we play. I know many examples of people who relocated geographically, completely changed their environment and still made fantastic careers by using their strong skills and previous experience. Some of them did it more than once. I respect people spend most of their careers in one company, one industry and one country. That’s totally fine. They might be loyal to their companies, dedicated to certain topics where they became experts or simply scared of a big change. They survive many changes, new organizational setups, several ups and an equal number of downs, and sometimes a lot of stress that did not have to be implied. Instead of this approach maybe it’s smarter to feel the right moment and to move on to another beach, another wave that is giving you a full speed and joy of good time, growth and development.

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Without arguing that this approach is better than any other I would just like to put into the center of our attention the personal development, work-life balance and professional growth. You can achieve much more in those areas if you are on the right wave, a wave going in full swing toward the coast.

And then, just before this wave breaks, look around and try to find the next one that will bring you new joy and new opportunities for an amazing surf.

Just to make it clear – I’m not saying that you should run away from challenging situations and problems. Especially during younger years, while you are still learning how to surf it’s very beneficial that you hit the cold water a couple of times or even break your surfboard. That will make you stronger as a person and a professional.  I’m also not promoting the idea of leaving certain environment when things become tough.

But always ask yourself these two questions:

I’m I happy here and will I be happy in a year or two from today?

Can I do anything to change big movements in my working environment? 

If the answer is NO, look around. Read some trend watching reports, start acquiring new skills… Because it may be time for a change. And while you are looking, consider your personal preferences and career and life stage goals. It might happen that you find exactly the right place for yourself on the side of a bigger stream or a newest trend. It’s not necessary to ride the biggest one!

The good news is that you can go back to your old job, industry, market at some point if you want.  As I said, in most of the cases things are moving in cycles. Maybe in 4 or 10 years from now the timing will be perfect to ride your board on that beautiful beach back from when you were young, once again.

Cheers to good waves and amazing surfing! Enjoy it! Just don’t forget to put some sun cream on your skin. SPF 50 plus. And beware of sharks.

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