Are You A Cruise Control Addict?

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For the past few years, our online wedding linens store has been a cash machine. The store website hasn’t required much work at all and sales have been more or less on autopilot.

Each and everyday, orders come in, orders get packed and money is deposited into our bank account.


Photo by Gibsonclaire

In effect, our entire business has been pretty much on cruise control which is why for the past several months we’ve been neglecting many important tasks and just letting our business coast.

But just the other day, my neurotic side kicked in and I started feeling a sudden wave of fear like I was being chased. Is it really safe to assume that our online store will always continue to grow?

Has the competitive landscape changed at all? Can we really depend and sustain this level of income in the long term while just coasting along?

Everything is fragile. For example, if a major retailer started carrying our products all of a sudden, it would probably take a huge chunk out of our sales.

More and more competitors could pop up and steal business away from us. Wedding trends could change and make our products undesirable. Many bad things could happen.

Why Am I Thinking About This Now?

With another child on the way in a few months, my wife and I are currently shopping for a new house. Now a funny thing always happens to us whenever we go home shopping.

Our real estate agent always starts out by showing us a bunch of houses within our set range. But every now and then, she’ll also show us a house that is just above what we think we can afford.

Naturally, the house that is slightly outside of our range always appears far more desirable so we start second guessing ourselves and wondering if we can stretch a bit and afford the larger, better home.

This happened to my wife and I just the other day. Our agent showed us a house that was 75k more expensive than our comfort zone.

Of course, we both loved the place so we started doing some back of the envelope calculations to determine whether we could swing it based on our current income.

And then we fell into the trap. We started assuming that I would always have my job. We started assuming that our online store would continue to grow at an extremely accelerated pace even though we’ve just been coasting.

We started making assumptions that if false, might severely affect our finances.

Can We Maintain The Status Quo?

The reality is that when things are going well, we have a tendency to relax and slack off. We start getting used to our current lifestyle and we depend on it. We become demotivated and complacent. After all, if we are getting by with things the way they are, then why change?

But guess what? Unless you make an active effort to keep things interesting and challenge yourself, your life will slowly degrade over time. You can’t just do the bare minimum to get by and hope things will stay the same. You can’t just slack off and not pay the price.

When I sat down and did a competitive analysis of our business for the first time in months, I discovered that 3 new competitors had entered our space!

All of this time that we were just sitting back and collecting money, new entrants into the wedding market have been busy trying to claw their way into our market and steal our customers!

I have no doubt that if we stay stagnant much longer that we will eventually be overtaken by our competition.

Are You Just Getting By?

It is human nature to take the path of least resistance. Whenever I’m faced with a big decision, my first instinct is to think to myself, “I’m getting by fine right now so why not just stay put?”

In the back of my mind, I’m always hoping that things will either stay the same or change for the better if I just wait it out. But time and time again, I’ve discovered that things don’t just get better by themselves.

You can’t just depend on luck to miraculously come your way. Time is your enemy!

The same holds true if you are sticking with that boring day job just to pay the bills. Are you just getting by? Are you living paycheck to paycheck?

Are you lukewarm about your day job? Sure, you might be fine slogging yourself to work each and everyday for now, but eventually little things will start to bother you.

Small annoyances that used to be tolerable will gradually drive you crazy. You’ll become unhappy. You’ll become dissatisfied. You’ll become depressed but you’ll feel trapped because you didn’t plan ahead.

The sooner that you come to the realization that it’s impossible to maintain the status quo in the long term, the sooner you can anticipate the problems ahead and address them.

The Idle Plan Trap

I’ll be the first one to admit that I often make plans that I only half heartedly plan on fulfilling. There are many business related tasks that I should be doing but because things have been going so well, I’ve been putting them off. But that must now change.

Shopping for a home has given me the kick in the ass that I’ve needed to reevaluate our long term income generation plans.

We are soon going to be committing ourselves to a good sized mortgage which also means that we also have to commit ourselves to maintaining and generating new income streams as well.

All good things will eventually come to an end. Our online store could stop generating income if we don’t adapt to the market. Business could deteriorate very quickly with my current employer and I could lose my day job.

There is no such thing as coasting by even if you want to stay in your present position. In short, cruise control simply does not work!

Anticipate change or risk getting blindsided when things turn for the worse. Those people who took out home equity lines of credit to fund their lavish lifestyles paid the price when the housing market collapsed.

Don’t depend on what you have today because you could lose everything at a moments notice. Diversify yourself and pursue your passions while you still can.

Yes, it takes energy to change. It takes energy to start a new business. It takes energy to maintain your current position. If you don’t expend any energy at all, things will only get worse.

Now is the time to discover what motivates you. Find something that you want to pursue and stop coasting!

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14 thoughts on “Are You A Cruise Control Addict?”

  1. Ha! I wish I was just “getting by”. :-) I can use a break right now, especially with facing a few health challenges right now. My car doesn’t have an autopilot feature yet, but it would be nice to turn it on – even if its just for a very short period of time.

    1. @Carla
      I don’t think getting by is in your vocabulary:) Just curious though, what prompted you to do a complete redesign on your online store?

  2. Great post Steve. It’s funny how we slack off when we have started to become successful in some, and we are usually brought back down to earth with a bump. You are doing great by anticiapting the bump and doing something about it, great stuff.

    1. @Steven
      Thanks Steven. I’m actually very prone to slacking off. Fortunately, there are many personal development blogs such as yours that keep me motivated

  3. Sound advice Steve!

    Too often we find ourselves becoming complacent when times are good and thinking that they will go on like that forever. It’s easy to be lulled into inaction during these times and then like you pointed out seemingly out of the blue things start taking a turn for the worse (like 3 new competitors entering your market).

    It takes energy to change and discipline to constantly improve and stay on top of things. Outside of external factors like house shopping, what advice/strategies can you offer to stay focused on improvement and advancement when things are already going well?

    1. @Xurxo
      Hehe. I’m not so sure that I’m the right person to ask that question. My wife and I tend to have these lulls in which we just try to keep our sanity while taking care of our daughter and we completely neglect the business. Then something usually slaps me back in action like a slow week of sales.

      I think the best way to stay focused is to set aside a specific time each week to dedicate to improving your business. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time, but it’s important to accomplish one thing no matter how small. This is how we operated when our business was getting off its feet.

  4. I certainly get what you mean Steve. It happens to me during uni days. Because I know I don’t really need to study to do well in exam, i usually end up getting lower results than what I’m capable of. Comfortable makes a man lazy. I think this is where being competitive can truly bring out the best of us. Either having a competitor or constantly challenging ourselves by setting new goals.

    1. @Karlil
      Yep, competition is definitely good. Though a little comfort every now and then isn’t so bad either. If only comfort wasn’t so dang comfortable! It’s easy to get caught up and relax for extended periods.

  5. @Steve – I had been wrestling with whether or not I should redesign my site and ultimately realized I wanted the site to have better navigation and a design that was easier on the eyes (less dark colors).

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