Plan B: Why ‘What Got Us Here, Can’t Take Us There.’

Earlier in the week we posted about Marshall Goldmsith’s so-called Success Delusion. Today we read a interesting post by one of Inc. magazine’s bloggers named Greg Wittstock, founder and CEO of Aquascape.Greg, who has been writing for Inc. under the blog Pondemonium since November, explains in his most recent post how and why he determined the time had come to abandon the original business strategy for Aquascape in favor of a Plan B, even though Plan A had been successful — very successful. Founded in 1991, the company, a vendor of fine aquatic gardening equipment (that’s backyard fish ponds, waterfalls, and water lily type stuff,” writes Greg) has grown into a $60 million business (annual revenues) with 190 employees and in the U.S. and Canada.Yet, Greg writes about how he’s now set to change course.

For four years running, from 1999 through 2002, Aquascape landed on the Inc. 500 list of the fastest growing privately held companies in America. Yet on December 31, the core business that achieved that feat with will be dead. Why would we kill what was a successful and prosperous business in favor of another model that is completely untested, you ask? Simple. We decided to stop trying to be all things to all people and figure out for the first time what we truly want to be when we grow up.

Greg’s rationale borrows from another Goldsmith maxim, articulated in his book:“What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” The book is really an elaboration on a piece of Goldsmith’s Success Delusion — the part where he explains why past successes can delude us into expecting that a repeat performance will lead to repeat success. It does not.To his great credit, Greg Wittstock appears to have figured this out sooner that most successful founders do. So, on on Jan 1, Aquascape will switch over from being a direct-to-contractor vendor of water garden stuff, to focus on being a distributor. There are risks, of course:

We will see how our gamble pays off … To even contemplate turning over our customers, the lifeblood of any business, to our [distribution] network — a network that didn’t even exist one year ago — seemed preposterous when we first began considering this.

But Greg understands what Goldmsith, and Harvard’s Clayton Christensen, have been lecturing about for years: businesses must be dynamic — especially the previously successful ones — if they hope to continue to innovate and growth into the future.Read Greg’s piece in full, and about how his new game plan may already be bearing fruit, here.