Rip Van Winkle – what a great name! The story of Rip is that he fell asleep for 20 years or so in the Catskill mountains. When he awoke and returned to his village, he found it had changed dramatically, from a quiet village to a bustling town.

This in turn made me wonder what the next 20 years will bring and what our own futures will look like:

  • What jobs will we be engaged in?
  • What will our health be like?
  • What will we be eating?
  • What cars will we be driving?
  • What businesses will we be running?
  • What neighborhoods will we be living in?
  • What clothes will we be wearing?
  • How will we travel?

In the business sense, we should look at Rip’s story from a sustainability point of view. 

In other words, “Is what I am doing now going to be relevant in 20 years’ time?” This is an excellent question and is considerably better than asking “Have I been asleep at the wheel?” in 20 years’ time.

Are you taking steps, or have you taken steps to remain sustainable as the world changes?

Anita Ruddick, who created the Body Shop business, once told me that all the advances we see in our businesses should be seen as “stairways to the stars” each advance having a higher trajectory.

Stairway to the stars - growing a business

Is there a new way of doing what you do, and have you considered the best time for you to step onto it to take you to a higher level of performance?

If you remain on your current growth curve what will you do when you get to the decline phase of the curve?

Waiting until this late in the process is akin to “falling asleep at the wheel”. There are five things you could consider if you find yourself in the decline phase:

  • Recognise that your business has plateaued
  • Research and seek other options
  • Revamp your processes, services or facilities
  • Restructure your operations, management or equity
  • Review the effectiveness of your recovery steps.

The Rip Van Winkle legend is a great lesson in the change that is a fact of life – do a quick environmental scan and check for the changes that are in your future and your business future.