Displacement: In the real world of small business, everything you do rules out something else you can’t do.
Understanding displacement is vital for business planning, vital for growing a business, vital for small and medium business in particular. Consider the picture here, marbles dropping into a full glass of water. The water comes splashing out of the glass and onto the table. That’s a good illustration of displacement and how it works in business.
I’ve seen it so many times: trying to plan their business, people start making lists of things that ought to be done and end up with huge unrealistic and impossible business plans because they haven’t come to terms with displacement.
Everything you do displaces something else that you can’t do. Learn to live with this and you’ll do better planning your business, and, particularly, growing your business.
(Note: this is a rewrite from a 2006 post)
(Note: this is the sixth of a 10-part series listing my revised top 10 business planning mistakes. The list goes from 10, the least important, to 1, the most important.)
Let me start this with one of my favorite quotes:
“I don’t know the secret to success; but the secret to failure is trying to please everybody.” Amen to that. In fact, you can package that up and call it small business strategy 101.
And I’ve written about the displacement principle in small business:
In a business, everything you do rules out something else that you can’t do.
And this fits very well with what I call strategy:
Strategy is focus. It’s as much what you aren’t doing as it is what you’re doing.
One of the most common worries I get as I sit as a judge in business plan contests, or more recently in a group of angel investors as a member, is the problem of too many moving parts. That comes back to you can’t do everything.
Trying to do everything usually leads to doing nothing very well.